By Ellen Garnett
It is a basic principle of economics: if there is more competition for a product, the price of that product is likely to decrease. In response to the inflated price of EpiPens, several companies have released their own versions of the product to increase consumers’ access to the medical device.
The EpiPen is an emergency medical tool that contains epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, which is a hormone used to de-escalate anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Mylan, the corporation that owns EpiPen, has come under fire by the U.S. government for pricing a pack of two syringes at $600, a cost that is hardly considered affordable by the 15 million Americans with food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research & Education.
To combat the lack of accessibility to epinephrine, people like mathematician Dr. Michael Laufer have taken it into their own hands to create a solution. Laufer is one of the creators of EpiPencil, a homemade epinephrine syringe that costs $30 from the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective.
“We’re giving people the requisite information to empower themselves to manage their own health,” Laufer said in an interview with CNNMoney.
Skeptics of the do-it-yourself allergy tool emphasize the importance of sterilization, pointing to the risk of contamination by amateur users. For others, the EpiPencil provides a cost-effective way to keep themselves protected, as almost all of the components are over-the-counter, with the exception of the epinephrine, which requires a prescription. Therefore, the FDA cannot regulate these legal DIY devices.
“Neither the FDA nor the American public have any assurance that unapproved products are effective, safe, or produced under Current Good Manufacturing Practices,” said Theresa Eisenman, an FDA spokeswoman in an interview with CNNMoney. “Unapproved drugs may be contaminated, sub-potent, super-potent, or counterfeit.”
AllergyStop is another emerging competitor for EpiPen by offering a smaller, economically-friendly epinephrine syringe that is designed to fit on a keychain. Created by Minnesota Allergy and Asthma Specialist Dr. Douglas McMahon, AllergyStop costs $50 and has a shelf life of 15 months, which is three months longer than that of EpiPen. Unlike EpiPencil, McMahon’s AllergyStop is working toward earning the FDA’s approval to offer a safe, more affordable alternative to a DIY epinephrine device and EpiPen.
The future of EpiPen remains unclear, but we can rejoice in Congress’ recognition of this healthcare inequity in its hearing on Mylan’s bloated pricing. The corporation’s CEO, Heather Bresch, has earned this issue even greater visibility in the media for underreporting EpiPen’s profits in their hearing with Congress. Now that the marketplace has responded to the public’s need of inexpensive allergy tools, it is up to our government to decide if this issue is important enough to weigh in on.