Mental Floss

EpiPens Have Gotten So Expensive That People Are Using Syringes Instead

Shaunacy Ferro
iStock / iStock

For people with life-threatening allergies, having an EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector) on hand can be life-saving. The handy devices make administering a vital dose of adrenaline to someone whose throat is closing up a completely idiot-proof task—which is exactly what you want in an emergency. Unfortunately, as Stat reports, the brand-name devices have gotten very expensive, leading some to turn to the cheaper, trickier alternative of manual syringes.

Since 2004, the spring-loaded syringe pen's cost has risen more than 450 percent, Stat calculates. The list price for a set of two is now $600; an official from one district in Illinois told Stat that the area spent $2400 a year on pens, to have just eight on hand for two fire stations. While there are a few alternative products, none are prescribed as often as the EpiPen.

To save money, EMTs are manually administering epinephrine, the synthetic version of adrenaline, using syringes. While anyone can use an EpiPen, it takes training to properly inject someone with a syringe. The pre-loaded EpiPens provide the correct dose every time and can be administered in seconds, while loading up a syringe with the proper amount of epinephrine and injecting it correctly takes a little more care.

EpiPens aren’t the only medical products whose prices are rising astronomically. In February, Bloomberg reported that out of a survey of about 3000 brand-name prescription drugs, 60 had more than doubled in price over the past two years, and 20 drugs had quadrupled in price. One gel for eczema and skin infections saw a 1860 percent price increase.

[h/t Stat]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at