All of the components, from the spring-loaded injector to the syringe, is available over-the-counter. The only thing that's not available is the drug -- for which you need a prescription.
But Laufer, who is working on a machine would that allow people to make their own medicine, told IEEE Spectrum that acquiring the drug online from a chemical supplier was easy.
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"There's a small but hopefully growing subculture of people who are buying the active ingredients of drugs," he says. "It's encouraging to see people take control of their own health."
It's unclear how Laufer's machine, called the Apothecary Microlab, which he showed at the 11th Hope hacker conference in July, would be legal, since all drugs must pass FDA approval.
But according to IEEE, the version he showed makes an inexpensive batch of the drug pyrimethamine, which is used to treat HIV patients. It's the same drug, in fact, that used to sell for $13 per dose until Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, got a hold of the patent. Now it goes for $750.
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Sticking it to big pharma could make Laufer look like a caped crusader, something of a Captain Chemical, if you will. After all, he wants to develop drugs to treat HIV and hepatitis C as well as create a "plan B" contraception pill.
But mixing up pharmaceuticals in one's garage/basement/kitchen raises all kinds of eyebrows and even if a person is willing to ingest a drug he or she made, would they feel comfortable giving it to someone else?
Jennifer Miller, a professor of medical ethics at NYU told IEEE, "If your child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction, you want to make sure they get the right medicine, at the right time, at the right dose." A regulated device will do that.
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