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EpiPen Sticker Shock? No Problem. We'll Make Our Own.


The outcry reverberated at hospitals, in newspaper editorials, and around dinner tables last month when news broke that the makers of EpiPen raised the cost of the life-saving device to more than $600 — up from less than $100 just a few years ago.

Concerned about both safety and the skyrocketing costs of EpiPen, University of Utah Health (UUH) nurses were already searching for solutions before the media storm hit. At a summer meeting, the group voted to ditch the EpiPen and instead create "epi-kits" that could be used to reverse deadly allergic reactions.

They took the idea to pharmacists, where a team worked to create the kits which could be used in clinics throughout the system. The kits — which, at under 10 dollars each, cost less than 1 percent of the EpiPen's price — are set to roll out to University Hospitals and Clinics starting on Nov. 1. The kits consist of a vial of epinephrine, two tuberculin syringes and two needles. They do the same job as EpiPen, but can only be used in clinical settings because health care professionals must ensure the dosage is correct.

With the EpiPen controversy still raging, the switch to "epi-kits" at UUH comes at just the right time. In addition to the ever-rising price tag, the nurses were concerned that EpiPen's short needles may not be effective on obese people, since the needle must be plunged into a patient's muscle. Americans' rate of obesity hovers between 34 and 39 percent, so the short needles pose an unacceptable risk, said Medical and Specialty Clinic Nurse Educator Holly Aiken, BSN, RN.

"We are working to be ahead of the curve when it comes to providing low-cost, safe care to our patients," Aiken said. "There are a lot of people in the media who are outraged at the rising costs of EpiPens, and there are many groups that are reacting to this excitement, but none of them is addressing the patient safety issue."

At UUH, the nurses' foresight is taking care of both problems.