A South African team of biomedical engineers has created a cheaper version of the EpiPen that is used to treat anaphylactic shock.
The South African device is called the ZiBiPen, and it administers a shot of adrenaline as a replaceable cartridge that costs around $16.00. The pen itself will cost $80.00. The ZiBiPen’s developers have been working with it in their laboratory at Medical Devices Lab in Cape Town to see if they can give their product a five-year lifespan.
The EpiPen, which is the best-known auto-injector, by contrast, lasts for only 18 months. It can only be used once, and a pack of two costs $600. One of the developers of the ZiBiPen, Dr. Gokul Nair, noted that patients in South Africa generally can’t afford that – particularly since delays in distribution sometimes mean that they might not get their EpiPens until six months before the expiration date.
Auto-injectors deliver their medications through the patient’s clothes and into their thighs. Nair noted that a big challenge was devising a spring-based mechanism that would fit in the pen and produce the force needed to administer an injection.
Nair and his team have also been working to make pens that could be customized for use on children or obese adults. He noted that the needles and dosages of the current models are designed with the average adult male in mind. The South African team also moved the needle to prevent users from puncturing their thumbs by mistake.
The ZiBiPen won recognition at April’s Emerging Medical Innovation Competition held at the Design of Medical Devices Conference, which is the largest such conference in the world. It received the second-place prize of a full market and technical evaluation that would normally cost $14,400. An organization called the Medical Industry Leadership Institute will provide the evaluation, and the resulting validation will entice investors.