Technological breakthrough is a term that describes more than just digital technology. It transcends many different fields and can serve various functions. Some examples of technological breakthroughs that do not involve digitization include, the analogue clock in the 17th century, steel support beams for buildings during the Industrial Revolution, and a very important technological breakthrough in the medical field; the EpiPen.
What is the Epipen for?
EpiPens’ main purpose is to induce a dose of the epinephrine hormone, an adrenaline that can help lessen/slow down the symptoms of an anaphylactic allergic reaction. Before I go on to discuss the technology and its development it is important to explain more about anaphylaxis.
An anaphylactic reaction occurs when the body experiences a severe allergic reaction to a substance, which can have lethal results if not treated immediately (airways close off and blood pressure plummets). Anaphylactic shock is a dangerous situation to be in as the body starts to shut down. This kind of reaction can occur from encounters with substances such as penicillin, latex, or peanuts, depending on the allergy. The adrenaline dosage ejected by the EpiPen, scientifically known as epinephrine, works to raise blood pressure and open airways during this reaction, giving paramedics enough time to arrive and stabilize the victim.
Brief History of the EpiPen
Originally called the ComboPen, the “auto-injector filled with nerve gas antidote,” was invented by Sheldon Kaplan in the 1970s, for the U.S military. It’s quick and effective results inspired a civilian version for the growing issue of anaphylactic reactions. There was a spike in these reactions in the 1960s due to negative reactions to new medicines, which presented a need for an accessible technology like Kaplan’s. Since the 1970s the design has been modified several times, but they basic spring-loaded syringe technology proved to be a success.
Although created more than 40 years ago, the function of the EpiPen is still relevant today, as are the accessibility benefits of this technology, which include;
- Administration through Clothes – the EpiPen has a quick and easy delivery process, allowing anaphylactic victims to shoot the pen through their clothes. (The Epipen is typically administered to the upper thigh)
- Requires no medical knowledge to administer – the EpiPen’s easy-to-follow instructions provided on the outer casing, show step-by-step instructions for comprehensible use (an accessible technology with visual and written cues)
EpiPen in 2017
The EpiPen company is the main supplier of auto-injecting adrenaline, as many other brands have been discontinued, while others exist but do not have as strong reputation as EpiPen. However, a recent 500% price increase has made this life-saving technology inaccessible for some Americans who cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars for medicine that expires after 12 months. The Canadian price has not increased substantially, as OHIP covers some of the cost. However, EpiPen’s controlling company, Mylan, claims that the increased prices for Americans, are directly contributing to educational and marketing efforts for anaphylaxis and epinephrine awareness.
One of their most successful and educational campaigns was the “One & Only EpiPen” commercial that reiterates the slogan, “Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.” This catchy rhyme has become synonymous with the EpiPen technology, as it describes the colour-coded steps to administer an EpiPen. This commercial, created by EpiPen Canada was aired nationally to raise awareness of the product and emphasize its ease of use.
This commercial helps Canadians of all ages understand the importance of this technology. This rhyme and knowledge is especially important for children and teens, who might need to help a friend who is experiencing an allergic reaction.
The EpiPen is one of the most relevant and important technological breakthroughs of the 21st century. Its life-saving potential is becoming known to more people, raising awareness about the seriousness of anaphylaxis. According to Business Insider,
“An estimated 7.5 per cent of Canadian adults and children have food allergies that put them at risk for anaphylaxis, she said. Overall, about two per cent of the population are in danger of the life-threatening condition due to reactions to all kinds of allergens”
Also, “In 2013-2014, that represented about 170,000 allergy-related visits across the country, CIHI calculated.” These statistics demonstrate that severe allergic reactions are more common than we might have thought and adrenaline doses during these reactions could save a life.
As a adult with a severe peanut allergy, I carry my EpiPen with me at all times. It feels like I have physical insurance in my bag, knowing that it could save my life. It is also comforting knowing that if necessary, my EpiPen could be used to save someone else’s life if they are experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. I am very grateful that I have never needed to use my EpiPen, but knowing I have it with me whenever I go out to eat or visit someone’s house is very reassuring. Without this technological breakthrough, the chances of someone surviving an anaphylactic reaction decrease greatly. This medical technology is critical and should be discussed more, and with Sheldon Kaplan’s invention of the “Pen” and Jokichi Takamine’s discovery of epinephrine in the 1900s, people with severe allergies in 2017 can live safer lives.