Mylan, the company with a monopoly on FDA-improved epinephrine auto-injectors ("epipens") has quintupled the price of their life-saving technology since 2004, to $600/unit (and they have the be thrown out and replaced every year); for this, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch (daughter of US senator Joe Manchin, who secured her initial job interview through political connections while he was Governor of West Virginia, moving her laterally from her gig as an aerobics instructor) received a 671% raise , bringing her compensation up to $18,931,068.
Now, a group called Four Thieves Vinegar, whose mission is free medicine for everyone (donate here) has released a video and instruction booklet describing how to make your open homebrew epipen (the Epipencil) for $30, which you'll have to outfit with epinephrine, which you can procure from chemical suppliers.
On The Parallax, Seth Rosenblatt digs into the specifics of the build:
People need to assemble the EpiPencil at home, and buy the auto-injector, syringes, needles, and epinephrine separately. Laufer’s site provides links to each of the components, except epinephrine, which requires a doctor’s prescription. People then load the syringe with the correct dose of epinephrine—it’s different for adults, children, and babies—and screw together the auto-injector.
A safety on Laufer’s recommended auto-injector, the AutoJect 2 ($27.99 at ADWDiabetes.com, $34.45 at Amazon) prevents accidental discharge of the epinephrine, while a screw-top cap protects the needle from contamination. A 1mL vial of epinephrine costs about $2.50, though a shortage of the hormone could lead to price increases, Leong says. Doses range from 0.01mL for babies, to 0.1mL for children, to 0.3mL for adults.
While Laufer estimates that people following his instructions would pay about $35 to fully assemble each EpiPencil, he acknowledges that prices of each component (not to mention shipping costs) are likely to fluctuate and differ between distributors.
The EpiPencil requires the user to measure the correct dose before administering it. An overdose can cause edema, heart palpitation, or possibly even death, says Dr. Schuman Tam, also a San Francisco-based allergist.
“If you don’t draw up the epinephrine carefully” into the syringe, “there will be a problem with contamination,” he says. Drs. Tam and Leong warned that the risks of an epinephrine overdose could be “catastrophic.”
EpiPencil hack costs a fraction of EpiPen [Seth Rosenblatt/The Parallax]
Introducing the EpiPencil [Dr. Mixæl S. Laufer/Four Thieves Vinegar]
[Eliza Strickland/IEEE Spectrum]