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Meet the EpiPencil: The $30 DIY EpiPen Alternative Created By Pharma Hackers

22 September 2016, 11:59 pm EDT By Saranya Palanisamy Tech Times
EpiPencil, a cheaper alternative for EpiPen, is developed by a group of pharma hackers, Four Thieves Vinegar Collective. The DIY EpiPencil costs just $30 and can be made easily using off-the-shelf parts.   ( Greg Friese |Flickr )

A group of pharma hackers, Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, has developed DIY EpiPencil, an inexpensive alternative to EpiPen, manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Mylan.

Mylan acquired EpiPen rights in 2007 but has raised the cost of the device from $57 to $318, which accounts to 461 percent increase in the last nine years. The skyrocketing cost has prompted the DIY enthusiasts to come up with the device, EpiPencil, that costs just $30.

Epinephrine is a drug used to treat anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs in minutes in people who are hypersensitive to antigens like bee sting and venom. While the life-saving drug is used in treatment of allergies for over 100 years, EpiPen developed in the 1970s makes it easy to inject the drug. Since people may experience an anaphylactic episode just any time, the EpiPen auto-injector helps them administer the drug themselves as soon as the symptoms are felt.

The fact that the life-saving device is helpful but more likely for the rich provoked pharma hackers to develop a groundbreaking alternative. In one such effort, Dr. Michael Laufer, the leader of Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, demonstrated how to make an auto-injector device using "off-the-shelf parts" in a video uploaded online.

Auto-injector used by diabetes patients and regular hypodermic needles are the only things needed to build the so-called Epinephrine auto-injector EpiPencil. And of course the anti-allergic drug, which can be bought online or under prescription.

Though the requisites sound pretty much affordable and the video demonstration clearly guides on how to make an auto-injector, people might have to think twice before working on it. And yes — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns people of the potential risks involved in using such devices.

FDA spokesman Kristofer Baumgartner said that the auto-injectors are intended to save lives and therefore they should be of high standards and reliable enough to be used "safely and effectively," reported in-Pharma. It is not advisable to use unapproved prescription drugs since there is no assurance on the quality of the drugs. The drugs could be super-potent, sub-potent or even contaminated.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Miller, a professor of medical ethics at New York University, also noted that it is not safe to rely on such homemade devices while dealing with life-threatening health concerns.

"If your child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction, you want to make sure they get the right medicine, at the right time, at the right dose," noted Spectrum. "An EpiPen will give you what you need," she says, "but you can't guarantee that with this other device."

Photo: Greg Friese |Flickr

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