Epinephrine and its use in anaphylaxis: Current issues

Faculty of Pharmacy and Department of Pediatrics & Child Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Impact Factor: 3.57). 08/2010; 10(4):354-61. DOI: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e32833bc670
Source: PubMed


Epinephrine is a life-saving medication in the treatment of anaphylaxis, in which it has multiple beneficial pharmacologic effects. Here, we examine the evidence base for its primary role in the treatment of anaphylaxis episodes in community settings.
We review the practical pharmacology of epinephrine in anaphylaxis, its intrinsic limitations, and the pros and cons of different routes of administration. We provide a new perspective on the adverse effects of epinephrine, including its cardiac effects. We describe the evidence base for the use of epinephrine in anaphylaxis. We discuss the role of epinephrine auto-injectors for treatment of anaphylaxis in community settings, including identification of patients who need an auto-injector prescription, current use of auto-injectors, and advances in auto-injector design. We list reasons why physicians fail to prescribe epinephrine auto-injectors for patients with anaphylaxis, and reasons why patients fail to self-inject epinephrine in anaphylaxis. We emphasize the primary role of epinephrine in the context of emergency preparedness for anaphylaxis in the community.
Epinephrine is the medication of choice in the first-aid treatment of anaphylaxis in the community. For ethical reasons, it is not possible to conduct randomized, placebo-controlled trials of epinephrine in anaphylaxis; however, continued efforts are needed towards improving the evidence base for epinephrine injection in this potentially fatal disease.

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    • "While we recognise the importance of an holistic approach in autoinjector device training, pharmacists are a sound option for training in the periods when physician review is not possible. Patients may wait months after diagnosis for an appointment with their allergy specialist, or only see their general practitioner when a new prescription is required to replace an expired device (every 1–2 years) [10]. Consultations may be time-restricted and patients may be overwhelmed with new information, reducing the potential for a memorable device demonstration by physicians. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Successful treatment of anaphylaxis in the community relies on early and correct use of epinephrine autoinjectors. Community pharmacists supply these devices and have a crucial role teaching patients how to use them. Supply of epinephrine autoinjectors in Australia increased 70-fold in the past decade. New EpiPen and Anapen autoinjectors were launched in Australia in 2011 and 2012, with the potential to cause confusion. However there is no information about how pharmacists demonstrate epinephrine autoinjectors to patients. Therefore the aim of this study was to assess real-world community pharmacist demonstrations of EpiPen and Anapen. We also sought to identify consultation-based predictors of accurate demonstration. Methods Demonstration accuracy was assessed in simulated patient visits to 300 randomly selected pharmacies. Pharmacists were asked by the simulated patient how to use original EpiPen, new-look EpiPen or Anapen, and assessed against the relevant Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) Action Plan for Anaphylaxis. Other anaphylaxis advice provided by the pharmacist was also recorded. Accuracy was analysed descriptively. Binary logistic regression was used to identify predictors of accurate demonstration. Results All 300 pharmacies were visited. Of 250 pharmacist demonstrations, 46 (18.4%) accurately demonstrated all four steps on ASCIA Action Plan. Failure to state ‘do not touch the needle’ (74.8%) or ‘massage injection site’ (68.8%) reduced accuracy. However 163 (65.2%) accurately demonstrated the three steps required to inject epinephrine (no difference by device, p = 0.15). Associations with accurate demonstration were: checking if the patient had an anaphylaxis action plan (odds ratio, OR = 16.1; 95% CI: 3.86-67.3); stating to call an ambulance after use (OR = 4.0; 95% CI: 1.44-11.1); or explaining side effects of epinephrine (OR = 4.5; 95% CI: 1.48-13.4). Conclusions It is critical that anaphylaxis patients know how to use their prescribed epinephrine autoinjector correctly. Pharmacists have acceptable rates of EpiPen and Anapen demonstration accuracy, although more is needed to improve this. Those who pay attention to the need for action plans, emergency care after epinephrine use, and informing patients about the side effects of epinephrine may have better knowledge about anaphylaxis, and in turn significantly improve demonstration accuracy.
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