SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – EpiPens are a common life-saving device for patients suffering from severe allergic reactions, but the price of these devices have increased drastically over the years.
The pen’s maker, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, is at the center of controversy, getting criticized for its pricing.
Mohawk Ambulance Service is currently paying just over $50,000 to stock their fleet with EpiPens.
“It’s critical that we get that drug to the patient as quickly as possible,” said Dan Gilmore, Director of Operations at Mohawk Ambulance Service.
That drug Dan Gilmore is talking about is, Epinephrine. It’s a life-saving drug for patients having a severe allergic reaction, and for years EMTs at Mohawk Ambulance have been administering it through the use of an EpiPen.
Gilmore says you open up the pen and slam it into the leg.
The price of that ‘pen’ owned by Mylan Pharmaceuticals has spiked over the years.
Gilmore says just one pair of EpiPens costs them $725. With 35 ambulances and two pairs per rig, that totals more than $50,000.
A big price tag for devices they don’t use often and end up discarding.
“The EpiPen has only a little more than a year shelf-life,” Gilmore said.
To avoid these costs, Mohawk and more than 400 agencies statewide are taking part in the Department of Health’s pilot project known as, ‘Check and Inject’.
It replaces EpiPens with syringe kits.
“You get a vial of drug and you get a customized syringe,” Gilmore said.
The medication is the same, but the price tag is much lower.
One pair of kits costs $85. For their entire fleet, it’s about $3,000.
“It will give us money that we can reinvest elsewhere in providing healthcare to our patients,” Gilmore said.
Administering these kits requires some additional training for EMTs.
“We have to watch a video on it that New York State puts out,” Cody Benac, Mohawk Ambulance EMT, said. “We have to take a test and then we have to do a skills exam.”
Since starting the program in the spring, Gilmore says they’ve had to use the kits twice.
“It’s been successful so far and we’re very hopeful that it will become scope of practice for our EMTs,” Gilmore said.
While participating in this pilot, Mohawk is still carrying EpiPens as a backup, but that won’t be the case if the state approves the program.
The state will make a decision on whether to replace EpiPens permanently later in the year.