This summer, news of price hikes affecting the EpiPen went viral. Since 2007, the cost of the drug has risen sharply from $57 a dose to $318 – an increase of 461 percent. This kind of price hike would be outrageous for any medication, but it’s particularly galling in the case of the EpiPen. The epinephrine autoinjectors are a lifesaving drug of last resort meant to halt anaphylactic allergic reactions long enough for people with severe allergies to seek emergency care. Now, a group of medical hackers has figured out how to create a DIY replacement from common drugstore parts for just $30.
The “EpiPencil” created by the Four Thieves Vinegar collective consists of an auto injector device designed to help diabetics, paired with a hypodermic needle capable of piercing through the skin into the muscle – the location where the medication needs to be injected in order to be effective. The active ingredient, epinephrine, can be obtained from a pharmacy with a prescription from a doctor. For those who are unable to afford an EpiPen for their allergies, this DIY hack could literally prove lifesaving.
However, it is worth mentioning that many experts have voiced concern about the EpiPencil and warned that it’s not advisable to try to create a piece of medical equipment at home – it can be difficult to ensure the correct dose is being administered, the epinephrine inside is delicate and might lose its effectiveness if stored this way, and of course, if someone were to create the device without paying close attention to hygiene, it could become contaminated. A miscalibration of the device could even cause the medicine to be injected into a vein, which can have dangerous side effects.
Drawbacks aside, the video from Four Thieves Vinegar proves that Mylan’s price hikes have nothing to do with the cost of actually producing the EpiPen. If nothing else, the DIY autoinjector highlights the out of control corporate greed which allows such unreasonable price hikes in the first place.