Self-Care Challenge (Day 239): Carrying an EpiPen

Epipen injector

When I was five, I stole an apple from a neighbor’s tree without asking and ended up in the ER. (Hello, Karma. How’s it going?) It turns out I’m highly allergic to yellow jacket stings, and I learned in a matter of minutes just how scary anaphylaxis can be. Needless to say, I learned two valuable lessons that day: 1) Never knowingly take anything that doesn’t belong to me, and 2) Our immune system is one powerful machine. And that’s why, on day 239 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I took my life-saving EpiPen on a hike. 

Fortunately, I’ve never had to actually use an EpiPen, but knowing it’s there just in case offers a sense of security that’s hard to describe.

While carrying an EpiPen is most certainly an act of self-care, there’s more to it: You also have to make sure it doesn’t expire.

Truth be told, the pharmaceutical industry hasn’t exactly made it easy for people like me to stay alive. For one thing, these little epinephrine sticks expire quickly. At most, they last about 2 years — if you’re lucky enough to find a pharmacy that has a newer supply in stock, that is. Almost every refill I’ve ever gotten has expired within a year. 

But the bigger problem is that Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen brand, recently hiked prices in an attempt to increase profit margins. In years past, I’ve paid just $5 for a prescription, but my most recent quote was nearly $600.

Of course I said, “You are out of your mind if you think I’m paying $600,” and then promptly called my doctor to explore alternatives. 

It’s also hard to believe that a single company has the power to manipulate pricing that easily — and it’s equally scary to think that they could probably also control availability. 

Today, self-care is more complicated than simply taking medications. It also involves finding products and treatments that are affordable and effective. We must be our own advocates — asking questions, comparing prices, and staying informed about the ever-changing healthcare system that we have little choice but to participate in.

Now, more than ever, it’s up to us to direct our healthcare experience

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