High price of EpiPens spurs consumers, EMTs to pick up syringes for allergies

EpiPens—spring-loaded syringes filled with epinephrine—are widely carried by people with life-threatening allergies. More than 3.6 million prescriptions for EpiPen kits were written last year, and another half-million for other similar products, according to IMS Health.

EpiPens—spring-loaded syringes filled with epinephrine—are widely carried by people with life-threatening allergies. More than 3.6 million prescriptions for EpiPen kits were written last year, and another half-million for other similar products, according to IMS Health. However, the prices of these auto-injectors have more than quintupled since 2004, prompting many emergency medical responders—and some regular consumers—to use manual syringes as a cheaper alternative. "Anyone using this approach would require extensive medical training to do it effectively and safely, without contamination or accidental intravenous injection," says James Baker, Jr., MD, CEO and chief medical officer of Food Allergy Research & Education. The organization's corporate sponsors include Mylan, which manufactures the EpiPen, and Sanofi, which used to sell a competitor. Mylan has raised the list price of EpiPens more than 450% since 2004, after adjusting for inflation, according to data provided by Elsevier's Gold Standard Drug Database. A pack of two EpiPens cost about $100 in today's dollars in 2004. The list price now tops $600. The high cost has driven officials in at least 10 states—including Colorado, Maryland, and South Carolina—to push for training more EMTs to give epinephrine injections using regular syringes.