Needle-Free Epinephrine Products Could Be Available in 2023

Esther Landhuis

March 01, 2022

Longstanding anxiety around use of epinephrine autoinjectors has prompted research into alternative delivery routes for this life-saving medication. Several companies presented posters on their needle-free epinephrine products at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Annual Meeting.

Intranasal formulations are under development at ARS Pharmaceuticals (San Diego, California) and Bryn Pharma (Raleigh, North Carolina). And Aquestive Therapeutics (Warren, New Jersey) is working on a sublingual film that delivers epinephrine prodrug when applied under the tongue.

Epinephrine is essential for stopping life-threatening allergic reactions, yet patients often don't carry their autoinjectors and many hesitate to use them. "It's needle phobia," said ARS Pharmaceuticals CEO Richard Lowenthal in an interview with Medscape Medical News. "They're afraid to use it. They don't like to inject their children, so they hesitate." 

Both nasal sprays reached maximal plasma concentration in 20-30 minutes. ARS Pharmaceuticals compared its intranasal product (Neffy 1 mg) against manual intramuscular injection (0.3 mg) and two autoinjectors (EpiPen 0.3 mg and Symjepi 0.3 mg) by analyzing data from multiple randomized crossover Phase 1 studies examining pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in 175 healthy adults. In this integrated analysis, EpiPen was fastest (20 minutes) at reaching maximal concentration (Tmax), followed by Symjepi and Neffy (both 30 minutes) and epinephrine 0.3 mg IM (45 minutes). In a human factors analysis, ARS Pharmaceuticals reported that untrained participants were able to administer the Neffy spray to themselves or another participant safely and effectively during a simulated emergency scenario.

Bryn Pharma compared pharmacokinetics of its nasal spray product (BRYN-NDS1C 6.6 mg) when self-administered or administered by trained professionals, and found comparable profiles for each. Tmax values were also similar: 21.63 minutes (trained professional) and 19.82 minutes (self-administered).

Aquestive Therapeutics is developing a postage stamp-sized product (AQST-109) that delivers epinephrine and begins dissolving when placed under the tongue. No water or swallowing is required for administration, and its packaging is thinner and smaller than a credit card, according to CEO Keith Kendall. 

Its analyses showed that the epinephrine reaches maximum plasma concentration in about 15 minutes, with a Tmax range narrower than that of the EpiPen. "The results showed dosing with AQST-109 resulted in PK concentration and Tmax values comparable to published data from autoinjectors," said John Oppenheimer, MD, of Rutgers University School of Medicine in a pre-recorded poster summary.

Aquestive aims to move forward to the manufacture of registration batches and a pivotal pharmacokinetic study in the second half of 2022. Lowenthal said ARS Pharmaceuticals is hoping for approval and launch of its nasal spray by summer 2023.

"Having a non-needle delivery device would help many people overcome that fear and hopefully increase use in anaphylaxis," said David Stukus, MD, an allergist-immunologist and professor of clinical pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio who was not involved with any of the studies on EpiPen alternatives. And "it's not just food allergy — anaphylaxis can occur from venom stings, medications, or idiopathic causes."

Lowenthal is the CEO of ARS Pharmaceuticals. Kendall is CEO of Aquestive Therapeutics. Oppenheimer is a consultant for Aquestive, GSK, Amgen, Sanofi, and Aimmune and sits on Aquestive’s advisory board. Stukus is a consultant for Novartis.

AAAAI Annual Meeting. Presented February 26-28, 2022.

Esther Landhuis is a freelance science journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be found on Twitter: @elandhuis.

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