Oct 11, 2016 | By Alec

Last summer, EpiPen, the widely used autoinjector device was subjected to an unjustifiable price hike: from $100 to a set of two, to $600 for exactly the same set. Understandly, this caused some upset as EpiPens have been a crucial tool for people who suffer from severe allergies and making them less financially accessible could have dire, even fatal, consequences for many people. And while Mylan, the EpiPen manufacturer responsible for the 600 percent price increase, has received much criticism from various people, organizations, and even government bodies, nothing has been done to make them bring the price of the medical devices back down.

As a result, many people have been searching for a more affordable alternative to EpiPen, and fortunately some groups have taken it upon themselves to develop these. One viable solution, developed by the DIY biohacking group Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, is the EpiPencil: an autoinjector similar to the EpiPen which is made up of store bought parts and an epinephrine shot (available on prescription), and which can be built for only $30. Recently, however, an even cheaper solution has presented itself thanks to a group of biohackers from ProgressTH, who have developed an open source 3D design for the EpiPencil, and are using 3D printing to create the autoinjector which costs as low as $3.

The Four Thieves Vinegar Collective is a group of pharma hackers, led by Dr. Michael Laufer, that are trying to free medicine from its commercial constraints and bring low-cost, open-source alternatives to the people who need them most of all. Their creations are all developed in what they call the Apothecary MicroLab: an ‘an open-source automated lab reactor’ which aims to enable people to build their own medication (though at their own risk).

While all the upheaval following the original price hike only led to a superficial Congressional hearing, this biohacking alternative could be the most powerful answer of all. "Whereas The pharmaceutical industry continues to put profits above human life, and whereas Autoinjectors and epinephrine are technology which belongs to the world, and whereas EpiPens save lives every day, but only for those who can afford them, and since The Four Thieves Vinegar Collective is dedicated to providing access to everyone we have developed the EpiPencil, an epinephrine autoinjector which can be built entirely using off-the-shelf parts, for just over $30 US,” they said of their creation.

The EpiPencil itself is so simple that you start to question the price hike even further. Consisting of an auto-injector used by diabetes patients and a store-bought 22-gauge hypodermic needle, it can easily be assembled without breaking the bank. As mentioned, however, ProgressTH hackers have worked to further refine that model with a 3D printed PLA body, lowering costs significantly. All you'll need in addition to the DIY autoinjector is a prescription for epinephrine.

One of the only drawbacks of the EpiPencil (or its refined 3D printed version), is that it cannot be stored for up to a year like the commercial EpiPen. Despite this, the EpiPencil does signify an important starting point for hackers to lower healthcare costs through open source innovation and 3D printing. Of course, as the EpiPencil is DIY, some medical specialiasts have warned against using the non-regulated medical device. “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,” says Medical Ethics professor Jennifer Miller of NYU. “An EpiPen will give you what you need, she says, “but you can’t guarantee that with this other device.”

While hacking pharmaceuticals does have its risks, it can still create numerous opportunities and at the very least demonstrate how more affordable options can exist. Hopefully, the biohacking groups are reminding big pharmaceutical companies of their ethical duty to help patients, rather than their own purses. A hacked medical device like the EpiPencil could even bring new innovation opportunities to the table that can, in time, become FDA approved and lower costs for everyone. For this reason, ProgressTH has decided not to test their prototypes on patients before medical and technical supervision is secured.

Interested parties can, of course, seek to build their own DIY EpiPencils as Four Thieves Vinegar Collective and ProgressTH have made their manufacturing and assembling processes available. The full list of materials for the EpiPencil can be found on the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective website here, and the 3D printed body model can be found on the ProgressTH website here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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wanfuforever wrote at 10/16/2016 3:25:46 PM:

Let the market work and the market will find a way around problems.

I.AM.Magic wrote at 10/12/2016 7:57:51 AM:

Probably the most "disruptive" use of additive manufacturing I've seen. Good job.

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