While we are living in an amazing new age as far as the world of medical advancement and technology, many of these great discoveries changing the face of health and medicine as we know it comes at a steep cost.

One of the biggest debates centering around this very situation is the availability of the EpiPen, a well-know epinephrine auto-injector that has the capability of saving the lives of those facing a fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

For those that have severe food and environmental allergies, carrying one of these devices may actually mean the difference between life and death. Encouraged to carry one with them everywhere that they go in the event that they may be required, EpiPens are seen as more of a necessity than a luxury for those that require them. However, due to the ever-increasing price, some allergy sufferers are faced with the difficult decision to go without due to their inability to afford the steep price tag.

The devices weren’t always priced so incredibly high. In fact, at one point a package of two would cost the pharmacies just $100. Even with the inflation to cover the pharmacy’s costs, the price was still incredibly reasonable. However, the price to purchase EpiPens has increased more than 480% since 2009 alone. Today, a package of two may cost some users as much as $1200! Even more startling when considering that price is the fact that they come with a stated expiration date of one year.

What’s the difference? It’s not that the device itself changed so drastically that the increase was required to cover production. In 2007 the EpiPen was sold by Merck. A to Mylan. While the new owner of the technology Mylan offers a patient-assistance program, for many families the cost per pack still sits around $500, which is more than they may be able to afford. The high price point has even pushed some emergency medical technicians to use basic syringes filled with epinephrine instead of the actual EpiPen device in an attempt to save money.

This struggle has pushed a number of different companies to set their sights on discovering the much-needed solution. Recently a team out of South Africa has introduced a product called the ZiBiPen, which shows a great deal of promise. While the EpiPen is a single use device, requiring replacement as soon as it is used, ZiBiPen uses a reusable pen, at a cost of $80, with replaceable $16 cartridges. The pen itself is designed to last for 5 years, significantly cutting back on the cost of replacement products.

Gokul Nair, who helped to develop the new device for a master’s project at the Division of Asthma and Allergy at the Red Cross Children’s hospital explained, “When we originally did research into the cost of the devices on the market, we found that delays in the distribution chain can mean South Africans only receive their devices with six months before expiry, which made it unaffordable for South Africans.”

The new device not only offers an affordable solution for the people of South Africa but if introduced into the American market, it may provide the necessary affordable option that many users so desperately need.


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