Epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, are a first aid tool that many people keep on standby to treat what can be a life threatening allergic reaction. Recently, these medical devices have taken a price hike.
EpiPens provide a dose of epinephrine (ep-i-NEF-rin) that, when applied to the thigh, have the potential to save a life.
Bee stings and a number of foods can cause the anaphylactic allergic reaction that EpiPens counteract.
An anaphylactic reaction can result in death in many cases, as it causes a victim’s throat to swell and close.
Keene State College sophomore Katie Maguire was two years old when she discovered she had a nut allergy. “I’ve had an EpiPen on me ever since,” said Maguire.
Maguire said that she ate a pastry containing nuts and had an anaphylactic reaction as a result. She also remembers that the Epipen she bought last year cost “about $50.” The Epipen was $57, set in 2007 and now two Epipens currently costs a little over $600. This is roughly a 500 percent increase in price.
Assistant Director of the Health and Wellness Center Deb Coltey said that she has had experience administering EpiPens.,
“Someone in a clinic I was working in had an allergic reaction, and I had to administer it. The EMTs came right away, but we were being extra careful,” Coltey said.
According to Coltey, she didn’t know if that particular patient’s life was in danger, but she made it clear that an EpiPen in many cases can save a life.
Coltey went on to explain that the price of EpiPens has slowly increased since Mylan pharmaceuticals bought the rights to EpiPens from the Merck Group in 2007. She said that she believes at the time the price for two EpiPens was about $100.
Coltey said that the appeal behind EpiPens is that they are so easy to use and can be administered by anybody, not just a medical professional.
“You can buy epinephrine for pennies. The proprietary thing of the EpiPen is the autoinjector,” she said.
Coltey explained the patent system on commercial drugs, saying that each drug has a 20 year patent, but it can take up to 11 years sometimes for a product to make it through the research stage to market.
After the drug reaches the market, whichever company has the patent can make the most money off it, as no other company can make generic versions of the product until the patent has expired.
“Other companies have to put in the work,” said Coltey, referring to the lack of competition that Mylan currently faces in the epinephrine market.
She recounted that other companies have tried designing autoinjectors to compete with EpiPens, but none have taken off.
The Dining Commons at KSC doesn’t currently have EpiPens.
The general manager of the dining commons Josef Quarinale said that they aren’t allowed to, and if a student has an allergy, they usually have an EpiPen on them.
Quirinale and the dietitian at the dining commons, Rebecca Hunt, encourage students with allergies to work with the staff around their allergies.
Hunt said, “Our hope is to prompt dialogue between the student and the staff so that the student is getting the most accurate information at the time of service.”
Elliot Weld can be contacted at email@example.com