December 14, 2018

EpiPens have been the subject of worry and concern recently amid reports that there have been issues with the needles either coming out easily or coming out at all.

This report came from Pfizer Canada after they notified Health Canada that EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. products with expiry dates between April 2018 and October 2019 have been improperly put together so the auto-injectors are caught on the inside of the carrier tubes, which make the devices hard to use or impossible to work. Health Canada then issued a warning of its own.

Pfizer Canada stated that it would not recall the auto-injectors “because pharmacists and consumers can check devices themselves before an emergency situation arises to make sure they slide easily out of their carrier tube. If they do not, auto-injectors can be replaced at a pharmacy.”

Pfizer is currently not aware of any malfunctions of these products in Canada, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any.

Duke Chen, a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart in Kitchener, says there have been a few recalls in the last few years.

“At my current store, which is at the Pioneer Park Plaza, I know there were two major recalls with EpiPens,” Chen recalls. “Fortunately, we didn’t have any patients who had problems with it.”

In the last recall, Pfizer issued replacement EpiPens for those that weren’t working properly by not delivering the medicine through the needles.

Chen also says that Canada has approved a medication from the United States called Auvi-Q. Pharmacists are able to give this in place of EpiPens, due to some shortages in EpiPens that may have to do with the recent malfunctions of certain carrier tubes.

So far there haven’t been any EpiPens replaced for getting stuck inside the carrier tube. Some customers have brought theirs in for the pharmacists to check. Chen has also called customers with EpiPens to make sure that they are checking theirs properly.

The cases of recalls in 2017 for needles getting stuck required a little more intervention compared to the malfunctions happening this year. Chen’s Shoppers offered replacements for the EpiPens because they were single-use.

”Since it is a one-time-use product, we offered replacements for the affected lot and I believe we had to replace more than 30 EpiPens last year.” Chen said. “The most recent [situation] was different, as it only affected the carrier tube, so the patients or pharmacists can easily check.”

There are EpiPens on campus at Conestoga College in case of emergencies; they can be accessed by going to the clinic and seeing the nurse that is on duty.

So how would someone go about checking an EpiPen to make sure that it is in working order?

According to the Health Canada website, flip open the carrier tube cap, gently turn the tube upside down and let the device slide out into your hand. It also warns to be careful not to drop or shake the device.

Once the tube is out, users are to visually inspect it to make sure that the device has no unglued edges that could catch on something and prevent it from sliding out.

They advise to not remove the blue safety release and that it should stay in place until it is necessary to use it.

More information about checking an EpiPen and what to do if it doesn’t work can be found on the Health Canada website. Pfizer Canada’s video on the issue is here.

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