King County emergency services in the Seattle, Washington, area have dropped use of the popular EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector) for a cheaper yet just as effective option.

Emergency personnel trained to deliver medications with a syringe are now injecting epinephrine directly.

The Check and Inject program replaced the more expensive EpiPen-branded epinephrine autoinjectors, containing 1 milligram vials of epinephrine and a small syringe and needle. The new kits, called Epi Kits, cost less and have a longer shelf life. Across the county’s 31 fire departments, savings for the year totaled more than $150,000.

Use of the alternative is spreading

Nearby counties in Washington are now adopting similar programs. The Seattle Fire Department will launch the program this year, and firefighters in Snohomish County are currently learning how to use the program. Officials in Montana just implemented the use of the program statewide.

Costs are an obvious reason for the change. The kits cost about $10 each and replacement vials are $2.50, while EpiPen sets are more than twice of the kit itself. Administration times for the new kits are longer, however, and that has been a point of contention for some. Others say it’s within reason.

“That’s within the boundaries of safety,” said Dr. Mark Reiter, president of the board of directors of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine to the Seattle Times. “For all but the most severe cases of anaphylaxis, a one-minute time lag is unlikely to make a difference.”

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