Solve EpiPen shortage by recycling, says researcher

by Leo Almazora10 Aug 2018

A health researcher is suggesting that EpiPen injectors could be recycled as Health Canada warns of a shortage of the valuable devices across the country.

“The contents of the EpiPen are available in vials and hospitals have it,” Dr. Jackie Duffin, hematologist and professor emeritus at Queen's University, told CBC News. “So it's not epinephrine that's missing, it's the injectors.

“If they expire, why isn't there some sort of mechanism for returning [the injectors] through a pharmacy so that they can be used over again?” she added.

Duffin is one of the authors of a CD Howe Institute study released in June that examined drug shortages in Canada, which Health Canada doesn’t monitor. Duffin and her co-authors used publicly available data to determine that the country sees at least 1,000 shortages of pharmaceutical products every year.

"We need to be much more transparent and accountable about what exactly the problems are and how we can fix each one as it comes along,” Duffin told CBC News. She contended that the federal health agency should issue an annual report on drug shortages to give the public an idea of the true scope of the issue.

In a separate interview, Health Canada's Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma explained that because of a manufacturing issue, Pfizer was unable to deliver a shipment of EpiPens that should have been sent out across Canada at the beginning of August. While there are other companies licensed to market epinephrine auto-injectors in the country, they have chosen not to enter the market.

“[W]hat we're working at really hard right now is to look at not only a short-term solution to this issue that we're dealing with, but a longer-term solution,” Sharma told CBC News.

Health Canada is trying to persuade other auto-injector manufacturers to enter the Canadian market as a long-term solution. The agency is also asking Canadians to forgo buying spare injectors and reminding them that EpiPen injectors can be used until the end of the month indicated on their expiry dates.

“[I]f you have nothing else, you can go to a pharmacist and get them to draw up a dose of epinephrine into syringes and you can take those home,” Sharma added.


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