Talking "Epi-Pen" gives patients and caregivers "out loud" instructions for injecting life-saving epinephrine into those with life-threatening allergies.
Mommy blogger Jennifer Roberge called 911 the night her 5-year-old son went into anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylaxis is defined as a “serious, life-threatening generalized or systemic hypersensitivity reaction" and "a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and might cause death.” – World Allergy Association Journal
Jennifer and her family had just started eating their takeout pizza when the boy started scratching violently—his lips turning blue as he struggled to find his breath. Unbeknownst to Jennifer, the pizza contained sheep’s milk, something her son was violently allergic to.
Other foods that can cause anaphylaxis are peanuts, shellfish and shrimp to name a few.
After injecting him with a dose of epinephrine, Jennifer says her son still couldn’t breathe. She called 911 and soon the police, fire department and Emergency Medical Technicians filled her living room, injecting her son with yet another dose of epinephrine.
“Dealing with food allergies is so difficult because you’re constantly dealing with cross-contamination you’re constantly nervous, on guard, stressed about what could be in the food that he’s eating,” says Roberge.
Roberge and other parents with children with life-threatening allergies tell their stories at Allerject, the website for a ground-breaking digital health device by the same name. The device is marketed under Allerject in Canada and Auvi-Q in the US, and is touted as the first epinephrine injectable in the world to give instructions to patients out loud.
Sized like a smart phone, and small enough to fit in your pocket, this talking “EpiPen” takes emergency anaphylaxis treatment and the digital health industry to a whole new level. Once patients realize they are having an anaphylactic reaction, they simply remove the cap and follow the audio instructions.
“Certainly one of the main messages is that people have not been prepared [and] they have not carried their epinephrine autoinjector,” says Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont.
“They have not recognized signs and symptoms [of anaphylaxis] and even when they do recognize those symptoms they’re reluctant to use that autoinjector.”
Dr. Waserman says patients of all ages can use the digital health talking device and teens especially like the fact they can tuck it into their pocket without drawing attention to their allergy.
How common is anaphylaxis?
- It is estimated that as many as 15 million Americans and 2.5 million Canadians have food allergies.
- This potentially deadly scenario affects one in every 13 children under 18. Sanofi Canada, the manufacturer of Allerject, is now stocking the device in some Ontario retail locations as a pilot project for children and adult-size devices.
- Approximately 1,500 Americans die every year due to anaphylaxis.
- Up to six million Americans may be at risk for anaphylaxis.
“According to the CEO of Unilife, Alan Shortfall, the wearables injectables market is expected to exceed $8 billion over the next ten years,” writes Lu Rahman.
The talking “EpiPen” is the brainchild of Virginia twins Eric and Evan Edwards who founded Kaleo Pharma. The pair suffers from potentially fatal food allergies and spent years developing a prototype, eventually licensing it to Sanofi in 2009.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the Auvi-Q last summer.
Dr. Edwards and his brother Evan are now working on a similar injectable for parents and caregivers to manage overdoses from painkillers at home. The FDA approved Kaleo’s EVZIO device for “the Emergency Treatment of Opioid Overdose.”