Some epinephrine injectors (EpiPens and their generic versions), used to treat severe allergic reactions, are prone to malfunctions that can cause delayed injection or prevent the device from injecting properly, the FDA warned in March 2020. Some malfunctions are also the result of user error. The warning applies to EpiPen 0.3 mg, EpiPen Jr 0.15 mg, and generic versions.
In some cases, the blue safety release may be prematurely released, activating the drug before it can be injected. This can be caused by using one hand to both hold the device and remove the release with a sideways force. Additionally, blue safety releases that are slightly raised may activate prematurely. And some EpiPens may not slide out of their carriers quickly or at all because of a slight deformity on the carrier rim.
To avoid user error when operating an EpiPen, make sure that (1) you remove the blue safety release, (2) the needle end is in contact with the outer thigh before and during activation, and (3) you hold the auto-injector in place for at least three seconds after you activate it. To avoid malfunction in an emergency situation, examine your EpiPen to be sure the safety release isn’t raised and that you can easily remove it from the carrier.
You should also occasionally practice using the EpiPen trainer to ensure that you can use it properly in an emergency.
This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.
Also see New Hope for Severe Peanut Allergies.