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EPIPEN (epinephrine) Indications And Clinical Use

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Indications And Clinical Use

EpiPen® (0.3 mg Epinephrine Injection, USP, 0.3 mg/0.3 mL) and EpiPen Jr® (0.15 mg Epinephrine Injection, USP, 0.15 mg/0.3 mL) are indicated for the emergency treatment of anaphylactic reactions in patients who are determined to be at increased risk for anaphylaxis, including individuals with a history of anaphylactic reactions. Selection of the appropriate dosage strength is determined according to patient body weight (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION section).

EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are intended for immediate self-administration for the emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions (Type I), including anaphylaxis associated with:

  • foods (e.g., peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, and wheat)
  • stinging insects (e.g., Order Hymenoptera, including bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and fire ants) and biting insects (e.g., mosquitoes and black flies)
  • medications
  • latex
  • idiopathic anaphylaxis
  • exercise-induced anaphylaxis
  • other allergens

Epinephrine is the drug of choice for the emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions. The strong vasoconstrictor action of epinephrine, through its effect on alpha adrenergic receptors, quickly counteracts vasodilation and increased vascular permeability which can lead to loss of intravascular fluid volume and hypotension during anaphylactic reactions.

EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® are designed as emergency supportive therapy only and not as a replacement or substitute for subsequent medical or hospital care, nor are they intended to supplant insect venom hyposensitization.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a serious, acute, allergic reaction that may cause death1. It has a sudden onset and generally lasts less than 24 hours. Because anaphylaxis is a generalized reaction, a wide variety of clinical signs and symptoms may be observed.

One to 2% of the general population are estimated to be at risk for anaphylaxis from food allergies and insect stings, with a lower reported prevalence for drugs and latex. People with asthma are at particular risk.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

Oral: pruritus of lips, tongue, and palate, edema of lips and tongue; metallic taste in the mouth.

Cutaneous: flushing, pruritus, urticaria, angioedema, morbilliform rash, and pilor erecti.

Gastrointestinal: nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Laryngeal: pruritus and “tightness” in the throat, dysphagia, dysphonia, hoarseness, wheezing, and cough:
Nasal: nasal pruritus, congestion, rhinorrhea, sneezing, and sensation of itching in the external auditory canals.

Cardiovascular: feeling of faintness, syncope, chest pain, dysrhythmia, hypotension. Note: Hypotension is a sign of anaphylaxis. Patients should be treated in the early stages of anaphylaxis to prevent hypotension from developing.

Other: periorbital pruritus, erythema and edema, conjunctival erythema, and tearing; lower back pain and uterine contractions in women; aura of “doom.”
The severity of previous anaphylactic reactions does not determine the severity of future reactions, and subsequent reactions could be the same, better, or worse. The severity may depend on the degree of sensitivity, the dose of allergen, and other factors.

Research shows that fatalities from anaphylaxis are often associated with failure to use epinephrine or a delay in the use of epinephrine treatment.

Epinephrine should be administered as early as possible after the onset of symptoms of a severe allergic response. Patients requiring epinephrine will not always have predictable reactions. Adequate warning signs are not always present before serious reactions occur.

It is recommended that epinephrine be given at the start of any reaction associated with a known or suspected allergen contact. In patients with a history of severe cardiovascular collapse on exposure to an allergen, the physician may advise that epinephrine be administered immediately after exposure to that allergen, and before any reaction has begun.

Epinephrine may prove to be life saving when used as directed immediately following exposure to an allergen.

In most patients, epinephrine is effective after 1 injection. However, symptoms may recur and further injections may be required to control the reaction. Epinephrine can be re-injected every 5 to 15 minutes until there is resolution of the anaphylaxis or signs of adrenaline excess (such as palpitations, tremor, uncomfortable apprehension and anxiety).

All individuals receiving emergency epinephrine must be immediately transported to hospital, ideally by ambulance, for evaluation and observation. Repeat attacks have occurred hours later without additional exposure to the offending allergen.2-4 Therefore, it is recommended that a patient suffering from an anaphylactic reaction be observed in an emergency facility for an appropriate period because of the possibility of either a “biphasic” reaction (a second reaction) or a prolonged reaction.4 At least a four hour period of observation is advised, although this time may vary. The attending physician will take into consideration such factors as the severity of the reaction, the patient’s response and history and the distance from the hospital to the patient’s home.

Anaphylactic reactions typically follow a uniphasic course; however, 20% will be biphasic in nature. The second phase usually occurs after an asymptomatic period of 1 to 8 hours, but may occur up to 38 hours (mean 10 hours) after the initial reaction. About one third of the second- phase reactions are more severe, one third are as severe, and one third are less severe. The second-phase reactions can occur even following administration of corticosteroids.

Following treatment of anaphylaxis, the patient must stay within close proximity to a hospital or where he or she can call 911 for the next 48 hours.

Protracted anaphylaxis, which is frequently associated with profound hypotension and sometimes lasts longer than 24 hours, is minimally responsive to aggressive therapy, and has a poor prognosis.

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