A Minnesota Doctor Is Trying Get a $50 EpiPen Alternative to Market

A file photo showing the EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine pens manufactured by Mylan NV pharmaceutical company are seen in Washington
FILE PHOTO -- EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine pens manufactured by Mylan NV pharmaceutical company for use by severe allergy sufferers are seen in Washington, U.S. August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo - RTX2NGZW
Photograph by Jim Bourg — Reuters

A Minnesota doctor wants to make fighting deadly allergies cheaper—a lot cheaper.

Douglas McMahon of the Allergy and Asthma Center of Minnesota in Eagan has created what he says is a more convenient epinephrine-delivering device for treating anaphylaxis—a severe allergic reaction which can cause difficulty breathing and other dangerous symptoms—that would be available at about a tenth of the price of Mylan’s (MYL) brand name EpiPen, according to a local CBS affiliate.

“By chance I came to realize how inexpensive the parts were, including the medicine, and I realized we can sell it to patients for a very reasonable cost,” McMahon told the network in an interview.

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Mylan has been under intense scrutiny since reports emerged that the pharma giant had raised the price of the EpiPen from less than $100 for a one-year, two-pack supply to about $600 over the course of a decade. The firm scrambled to bolster price-lowering coupons for patients after its share value nosedived and has pledged to release a generic competitor to its own product that will be about half the cost of the branded one.

But McMahon says his alternative device, dubbed the AllergyStop, would cost as little as $50. And he believes the technology itself is superior to Mylan’s since it is far more compact and easier to carry—particularly important since most Americans who die from anaphylaxis do not have their epinephrine with them. The device can also be customized to provide different dosages for different body types.

Still, there are some big hurdles that need to be cleared before the AllergyStop can reach the market. For one, McMahon needs to conduct the thorough, expensive safety and clinical trials necessary for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Such testing can easily cost upwards of $1 million, which is why McMahon is currently trying to raise money through an Indiegogo campaign.

There’s also the question of how realistically the physician can stick to his low target price. If he opens up the product to outside investors, they may press him to raise its tab, he admits.

In the meantime, Mylan is still facing tough questions (and an investigation by New York’s Attorney General) about its decision to hike the EpiPen’s price. CEO Heather Bresch is slated to testify in front of the U.S. House Committee on Government and Oversight in a September 21 congressional hearing.

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