DIY Epipen: the $30 Epipencil

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That is fucking awesome. This is what makes BoingBoing a directory of wonderful things. Now I can’t wait to see the demonizing responses about all the testing and safety and blah blah blah that makes this a horrible and unsafe alternative to the Epipen.


Seriously, that’s it? That’s what it takes to build one of these things? That’s awesome.
I mean, the only “flaw” I see in the home-brew version is that the needle is exposed (and thus a stick risk) after the injection. But that’s a manageable thing- especially if we’re talking about an adult user.
Pretty cool.


Sure, it’s cheap, but on the other hand $600 is a small price to pay to know that investor expectations are satisfied.


I would be concerned with contamination, wrong dosage, and other factors but considering the price of the epipen the people who depend on it would hopefully be very very careful if they tried to do this themselves.


How many people will die in America because they can’t afford the $600 Epipen vs. how many will die from improper use of the DIY Epipencil? That’s the big question.


I don’t require taking any medication so i’m lucky thus far in that aspect, so i have no real frame of reference for what it’s like. But i’m very cautious and somewhat paranoid over taking meds (i take stuff for headaches/migraines begrudgingly), so the thought of hacking together an epipen is just plain terrifying for me.


I wondered whether people could use autoinjectors and make their own. Autoinjectors are very easy to use (I used this injector myself when doing IVF, which was 4 injections/day, minimum, which sucked for a needle-phobic). My biggest concerns are how long the DIY autoinjector will last - I don’t know about the half-life of the epinephrine just in saline solution, or if the epipen adds stabilizers. As long as people understand that and understand that the dosage isn’t something to mess with, good on them!


Isn’t that a major point of the EpiPen? Other flaws I see are greatly increased risk of incorrect dosing and worse hygiene, not to mention the dangers of encouraging people who’s skill set doesn’t lie in administration of medicines to acquire potentially lethal drugs in place of safe, tested devices…

Besides, why doesn’t the FDA just approve some of the many alternative autoinjectors, which would negate the monopoly issue? There are 3 brands of adrenaline (epinephrine) autoinjectors approved for use in the UK for instance and 2 different brands in Australia; factoring in overlap that still gives you 3 different choices of adrenaline autoinjectors other than the EpiPen that all meet the standards of developed nations that pride themselves on their healthcare.


This is in part, I think, a case of 9’s.
Getting something to work 99% of the time is hard. Every time you add a “nine” to that (e.g. 99.9%, 99.99%, etc) it become an order of magnitude more difficult. So EpiPens are rated to some level of confidence, and for that you pay an (enormous) premium. This cost a tiny fraction, but the level of confidence is much lower.
It’s a good thing the Epipencil exists (for now), but it shouldn’t have to.


The premium isn’t for the reliability of the device though - it was already profitable before they jacked the price up by a phenomenal amount. Notably, they appear to have only boosted the price in the US as well. The reason for the price is because the US simultaneously takes no measures to cap the prices of pharmaceuticals to consumers and has not approved a competing product, leaving neither government intervention nor free market economics as options to reduce the price.


Totally correct.
I was unclear, I fear, in my previous post.
I’m willing to accept that developing the EpiPen cost a meaningful amount of money, and that the development needed to create a device that can reliably, consistently, and safely dispense a measured amount of Epi under adverse conditions was a difficult task.
That said, they’ve LONG SINCE recapped that development money (which, I understand, they may not have ever actually spent, as it’s my understanding that the dev. work on these devices was actually done by the US military…).
It’s time for that to be an open source design, and for generic competitors to be able to churn these out for a few bucks a piece.


Seems to me thousands (millions?) of diabetics inject themselves with metered doses of insulin daily using exposed-needle syringes. Insulin is also a substance that is dangerous if dosed incorrectly and has to be stored correctly (relatively short room temperature shelf life).

So this is not such a big risk in the grand scheme of things.


I’ve been briefed on the use of an epipen by people I have been travelling with who had a history of allergic reactions.
The idea is that in a worst-case emergency, the patient would be unable to administer it themselves.

With a home-made epipen, I’d be seriously worried about liability issues, even in much less litigation-happy countries than the US.


This is whatcha call an epinephany.


I wish they weren’t called “Four Thieves” - like “The Pirate Bay” or GIMP it’s not a naming that inspires confidence outside a small circle already pre-disposed to trust them.

If Mozilla had called their browser “The Microsoft Fucker” would it have gained* the traction it did against Internet Explorer?

* and lost


A leather-jacketed man giving muffled instructions for hypodermic injections in a poorly lit room full of laundry is maybe not the best foot forward.


Let’s assume there are 10 million uses of epinephrine injectors (Epipen, Epipencil) per year.
Let’s assume that regardless of source, epinephrine injectors have a 0.001% mortality rate per year (1 in 1000 uses ends in death).
Let’s also assume that the userbase ends up in a 98:2 percent split, Epipencil vs Epipen.

With 980,000 epipencil users
.001 mortality
980 deaths

20,000 Epipen users
.001 mortality
20 deaths

Even if Epipen’s had a 10x higher mortality rate (1 in 100 uses ends in death)
.01 mortality
200 deaths

How do you think the company would spin those numbers?


A friend of mine died from a bee sting because her epinephrine injector was in her purse locked in her car while she was out playing golf. (This was before EpiPens, just a regular hypodermic.)

The reason people don’t simply use $1 hypodermic needles to inject $2 worth of epinephrine is that the War On Drugs has banned “drug paraphernalia” for a long time, because it’s much more politically correct to let drug users spread HIV and Hepatitis by sharing needles than to let them have clean needles they might use to get high. As the Drug Policy people say, “Junkies who have diabetes don’t get AIDS, because they can buy clean needles at the drugstore.”

Epipens are more convenient for people who don’t know how to use a hypodermic, or don’t know the right doses, or are in the middle of an allergic reaction and only have enough time to pop the lids off and stab themselves before passing out. The EpiPencil and similar DIY versions can take care of this. I checked out their website, and they’re basically using insulin injectors that are made for people who have trouble using regular needles (kids with Type I, or older adults with dexterity or vision problems.)


edit - Never mind, Antares14 is right. I bent the needle after messing around and using my expired pen on a cardboard box. I’m not sure ANYONE would pull a epipen out and deliberately trying to bend the needle as they pull it out of their leg.
---------bad info-----
The epipen is the same, it also leaves the needle exposed after use.