If you have EpiPens in your home that are soon to expire, you might want to examine the dates a bit more carefully because the FDA extended the expiration dates for some EpiPens. As many patients who rely on EpiPens for their safety likely already know, there's a pretty serious global shortage of EpiPens going on right now. Though EpiPens might still be readily available where you are, they're proving much more difficult to get a hold of in some places. If your EpiPens were due to expire in April, May, June, August, or September, or are going to expire in October, November, or December, you need to turn your attention to the lot number on the EpiPens, because their expiration date may have been changed.
In late August, the FDA amended the expiration dates for a number of batches of EpiPens in an effort to lessen the impact of the shortage — after examining information about the stability of the product provided by Mylan, which markets EpiPens. The expiration date for each lot was changed to four months past its original date, meaning some EpiPens that were due to expire this month won't actually expire until February 2019.
"Many patients rely on self-injectable epinephrine products, such as EpiPen, to reverse life-threatening reactions to bee stings or other allergens for either themselves or for their children," Dr. Janet Woodcock, MD, the director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement released by the FDA. "We are doing everything we can to help mitigate shortages of these products, especially ahead of the back-to-school season. We’ve completed the necessary reviews of the data to extend the expiration date by four months for specific lots of EpiPen that are expired or close to expiring. We’re hopeful this action will ensure patients have access to this important medication and provide additional peace-of-mind to parents as the agency works with the manufacturer to increase supply."
If your EpiPens are among the groups that now have an extended expiration date, make sure you continue to store them according to package and manufacturer directions to keep them as effective as possible right on through the extended period until the new expiration date.
It's important to note, as CNBC reported, that these extended expiration dates do not apply to EpiPen Jr., which is designed for kids that weigh between 33 and 66 pounds. So if you have those at home, follow the typical schedule and date that the manufacturer printed on the box.
Again, these extensions are only for certain batches of EpiPens, not all EpiPens, so looking carefully at the lot number as well as verifying that your EpiPen is a 0.3 milligram injector (the only ones that received any sort of extension) is essential.
Because epinephrine (the active ingredient in EpiPens) can save someone's life in the event of a serious allergic reaction, knowing that each EpiPen has been stored correctly and hasn't lost its effectiveness is super important. Hopefully the shortage will let up soon, but until it does, paying attention to EpiPen expiration dates and chatting with your doctor about potential alternatives like Adrenaclick and Auvi-Q might be the best that you can do — just make sure that you know how to use them.