Needle-free epinephrine products could be available next year
Here’s some good news for parents with children with severe allergies, such as to peanuts or bee stings. If you are in that category you probably have to carry around with you an EpiPen, which is an autoinjector device for giving immediate epinephrine if your child is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. These things are life saving, but they do involve a needle and many people are squeamish or afraid of needles. Several companies presented posters on their needle-free epinephrine products at the recent American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology annual meeting. These included both an intranasal spray and a tablet to put under the tongue. Both approaches gave results, in terms of blood levels of the drug, as fast as the EpiPen autoinjectors. And speed to good blood levels is the most important thing in treating acute allergic reactions.
Epinephrine is essential for stopping life-threatening allergic reactions, yet patients often don’t carry their autoinjectors and many hesitate to use them, even though epinephrine itself is very safe. They can be afraid to use them and they don’t want to inject their child with a needle. So they hesitate at a time when minutes matter.
No word from the developers on the crucial question of cost or precisely when these products will be approved and available — the goal is for next year. There was a huge scandal several years ago when the maker of EpiPens jacked the price up by several hundred percent. This is pretty important, since families with a child who might need them generally have to have several — say one for the car, one for the purse, etc. Since in general injectable medications are much more expensive than pills or nasal sprays just from a manufacturing standpoint, one would hope that these needle-free products will also be cheaper.