I learned at a very young age that I would need to carry an EpiPen for the rest of my life. (I can tell you first-hand that anaphylaxis isn’t fun.) Fortunately, I’ve never had to use it, but I’ve depended on the life-saving device since the early 80’s, just in case I ever got stung by a bee and my body didn’t respond calmly.
As far as I’m concerned, carrying an EpiPen is an act of self-care.
I have no idea how much money I’ve spent on refills over the past 34 years, or how many EpiPens are now buried beneath the soil in a landfill, but I do know that I feel comforted by the fact that I have one nearby in the event of an emergency.
The kicker is that these epinephrine sticks expire rather quickly. At most (and if you’re lucky enough to find a pharmacy that has a newish supply), they last about 2 years. But almost every refill I’ve ever gotten has expired within the year I received it.
As I set out for a 3-hour hike yesterday, I dropped the trusty EpiPen into my backpack and felt an odd sense of fear…and anger.
Those feelings were sparked by recent news coverage related to the spike in prices, and the realization that if a single company has the power to strong-arm pricing in the name of profit margins, then it probably also has the power to control availability. Not a comforting thought for someone who prefers not to experience anaphylaxis, even if that right comes at a premium cost.
And there was also a little helplessness, knowing that I have no control over any of it. I’ll be forced to pay the cost, no matter what that cost is, or accept death as the alternative.
Or will I?
I have to tell you, the idea of a $10 injection kit is very interesting to me. (I mean, if Dana Lewis can engineer an artificial pancreas long before the pharmaceutical industry can, then I can certainly learn how to inject myself with epinephrine without a fancy schmancy pen.)
What if we, average hard-working Americans, weren’t thought of as incompetent? What if we learned to manage our own health conditions? What if we decided to be more involved in the decisions made about our care?
What if we said ‘no’ once in a while?
Update: Fortunately, a cheaper alternative made it to market before I had to seriously entertain this option.