An EpiPen can be a lifesaver in the event of a severe allergic reaction. Each EpiPen delivers a measured dose of epinephrine in order to reverse the reaction, providing enough time to get emergency medical treatment. Most adults and children who know they have a life-threatening allergy carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them at all times. But how many of these are expired – and what are the dangers of using an expired EpiPen?

While some medications do work well past their expiration date, data suggests that EpiPens are not as effective past the dater of expiration. A recent study found that while expired EpiPens were still functional, their effectiveness was dramatically reduced. In most cases, the medicine in the devices still looked normal and was the same color and consistency as non-expired medication. Yet the epinephrine contained in the expired injectors had lost some, or even all, of its potency.

The epinephrine begins to deteriorate at or around the expiration date. The more out of date the EpiPen, the less epinephrine it contains. This means that an expired EpiPen is less effective than a non-expired version of the same medication, and eventually, the EpiPen will contain no active medication at all, and will not stop the allergic reaction.

EpiPen carriers should check the expiration date, replacing any that are out of date. Expired EpiPens may be disposed of at your doctor’s office or a hospital. However, if the only EpiPen available has expired, and you or someone else is experiencing an allergic reaction, use it anyways. Although the dose may not be optimum, there may be enough epinephrine left to offer at least some relief.

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