Recycling injectors could help solve EpiPen shortage: researcher

Dr. Jackie Duffin offers a practical solution to curtail the ongoing EpiPen shortage — reusing expired injectors. Having researched the drug shortage, she's now calling on the government to do more to protect Canadians.

'It's not epinephrine that's missing, it's the injectors,' says Dr. Jackie Duffin

Health Canada's Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma told The Current the EpiPen shortage is specific to the adult medication. She added the junior version for children is in short supply but is not out of stock. (Mark Zaleski/Associated Press)
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Amid Health Canada warnings of an EpiPen shortage, one resarcher suggests recycling injectors could be the solution to make the life-saving medication available to carriers.

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

"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?"

Researcher Dr. Jackie Duffin and Queen's University students studied Canada's drug shortage over the last five years. They found at least 1,000 products were in short supply every year. 1:21
 

Duffin wants to see the government do more to protect Canadians. 

She co-authored a CD Howe Institute study published in June that looked at Canada's drug shortages because Health Canada does not monitor the issue. Using publicly available data, her study found at least 1,000 products were in short supply every year.

"The shortage of EpiPen typifies the other 1000 shortages we see each year," Duffin told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.

Given its access to information, Duffin wants to see Health Canada issue an annual report on drug shortages. 

"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."

According to Health Canada, the EpiPen shortage is partly due to ongoing issues with the manufacturer, as well as a recent manufacturing delay.

"There was a shipment that was supposed to be sent out across Canada at the beginning of August and there wasn't a supply to send out and that's really what we're dealing with right now. So we're in this few week period where there may not be any supply in pharmacies," Health Canada's Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma told Lynch.

Dr. Sharma added that relying on a single supplier is not sustainable and the government is working toward short and long-term solutions.

"We are talking to companies to try to get more information about why they haven't come to Canada or marketed in Canada. And at the same time looking for companies that potentially have other supply elsewhere in the world that they can bring into Canada in the short term."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica Linzey and Richard Raycraft.

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