Doctors discuss EpiPen alternatives that could save hundreds of dollars

Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 19:49:34-04

HAMILTON, Ohio -- It's no secret that EpiPen prices have been soaring, but doctors say there's an alternative that is just as effective but a lot less costly.

Fort Hamilton Hospital is one of many outpatient pharmacy locations where patients can refill a prescription for epinephrine With epinephrine, patients can make their own DIY EpiPen-style injectors, according to doctors.

All one needs is a portable container, a needle, syringe and a vial of epinephrine, Dr. Marcus Romanello, chief medical officer at Fort Hamilton Hospital, said. The supplies cost a total of about $10.

The medication can be administered to the thigh as usual.

"It's a weight-based dose that would be prescribed by your doctor, so you would draw up the recommended amount," Romanello said.

The standard vial of epinephrine can contain as many as six doses for a child. That's more doses than an EpiPen offers.

But how well would it work in schools or other settings? Romanello said a nurse or paramedic would be comfortable drawing up and administering the medication. It's actually the standard way paramedics give epinephrine, he said.

In Hamilton City and Middletown schools, nurses said they've been using a program known as "EpiPens For Schools" to supply free EpiPens in each school building.

Due to state law, students cannot carry a needle and vial to school unless it's an epinephrine auto-injector like an EpiPen.

According to Romanello, the only true difference between the EpiPen and the DIY version is the convenient packaging that disguises the needle and the spring mechanism, making the EpiPen easier to use. And then there's the price.

"They can't go without a life-saving device, so carrying your epinephrine with you is imperative," Romanello said.