Local EMS, fire crews adjust to EpiPen costs

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- For the past year, Reidsville fire trucks have been equipped with syringe sets along with epinephrine -- the medicine used in EpiPens which treats severe allergic reactions.

"It’s the exact same medication, exact same quality, exact same dosage," said Assistant Chief Jay Harris of Reidsville Fire Department.

Harris says the only differences between the two methods are time and cost.

"Five seconds versus 30 to 40 seconds," Harris said, explaining the difference in the amount of time it would take to use an EpiPen versus how long it would take an EMT to administer the medicine through syringe injection.

"We couldn't afford to keep doing it,” Harris said. “We had to find a more cost effective alternative."

Five Rockingham County fire departments have switched from using EpiPens to using syringes to administer epinephrine.

"We're giving up a little bit of convenience for the cost differential,” Harris said.

Harris says it would cost the department $922 for a set of two EpiPens and $455 for one dosage.

He says the exact same medicine given through a syringe would cost $3.53 per dose.

"That's a considerable difference," he said.

It's not just Rockingham County.

Forsyth and Stokes counties also use the syringe method.

Guilford County EMT’s still use EpiPens but are now looking into alternatives.

"We're consumers too,” said Justin Stewart, assistant training officer for Rockingham County EMS. “We have a limited budget."

Making matters worse, Stewart says EMS and fire departments don't get any discounts.

"I think you're going to see more fire departments saying 'We're going to have to switch to this to save the money,’" Stewart said.