When drug company Mylan raised prices of the EpiPen from $100 per pack in 2007 to $600 today, patients, parents, and politicians went up in arms. An EpiPen delivers about $1 worth of the hormone epinephrine. Now, for the adventurous, a hacker group has created an alternative: a DIY EpiPen that costs just $30.
The EpiPen works by firing a spring-loaded needle into the user, delivering epinephrine to counteract anaphylactic shock. It’s essential for many severe allergy sufferers to survive the accidental ingestion of common foods like peanuts. The DIY version is built from easily available parts and can be put together in minutes. There's also a sticker with instructions, so folks will know what it is and how to use it if you can’t.
The EpiPencil, as it is called, comes from Michael Laufer of DIY medicine collective Four Thieves Vinegar. It consists of an auto-injector (usually used by diabetics), a syringe (available isn ten-packs), a 22-gauge hypodermic needle, and—of course—the epinephrine, which you will get from a prescription.
Now, not everyone is ready to hang their life on the efficacy of a hacked DIY device, but then, some people don’t have much choice. The good news is that the bulk of the device is a regular medical gadget, designed for the same use, but hacked to carry a different payload. Even so, medical professionals recommend against doing it yourself. "If you don’t draw up the epinephrine carefully," San Francisco-based allergist Dr. Schuman Tam told The Parallax, "there will be a problem with contamination." Correct dosing is also essential. An overdose can kill or cause edema or heart palpitations.
Really, though, what the EpiPencil does is shame Mylan by showing how much it really costs to make an EpiPen. And remember, Laufer is buying these parts retail, so the real cost is much lower. Nobody can force Mylan to lower its prices, but that doesn’t mean we should let them get away with it easily.
Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it's interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.