Pharmaceutical giant Mylan recently bumped up the price for a two-pack of EpiPens to $600. When they bought the rights to the EpiPen in 2007, the life-saving treatments were sold for $57 each. As a demonstration of how ludicrous this price surge is, “biohacker” group Four Thieves Vinegar has released a video guide explaining how a makeshift EpiPen, also known as an epinephrine auto-injector, can be made for little over $30.
It’s worth pointing out that we can't condone making your own medical equipment. Most equipment of this kind has to undergo clinical trials and obtain FDA-approval to ensure it's effective and safe to use. Nevertheless, while unregulated healthcare products are never a good idea, the work of Four Thieves Vinegar clearly raises debate about the EpiPen’s new price tag.
In the video and instruction booklet, they explain how you can fashion an epinephrine auto-injector with just $30 worth of off-the-shelf parts and a prescription for epinephrine – a form of adrenaline that can be used to treat anaphylaxis (an acute and severe allergic reaction).
The drug epinephrine is on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines (PDF), and its benefits have been well known for more than a century.
However, Mylan now essentially owns the monopoly on FDA-approved epinephrine auto-injectors, meaning they can bump up the price with little fear of competition. While that’s good news for those at the top of the company, many consumers who rely on the drug have been hard pushed to afford this life-saving treatment.
As a response to this, Four Thieves Vinegar has laid out a mission plan on their website: “People are disenfranchised from access to medicine for various reasons. To circumvent these, we have developed a way for individuals to manufacture their own medications.”
Speaking to The Parallax, Michael Laufer, chief spokesperson for the group, added: "You know there are people who are just not buying an EpiPen because they can’t afford it. That’s unconscionable."
Just remember, don't try this at home.