If your child suffers from life-threatening allergies that call for carrying an EpiPen, then you probably already know that it’s not only a hassle to have to refill yearly even when you don’t have to use the pen (and everyone prays you don’t have to), but it’s now hurting your wallet a lot more, too, due to a huge price hike by the drug's manufacturer, Mylan.
U.S. Senators are taking note, as they’ve been hearing from constituents about the price hike of this essential prescription drug. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal issued a public letter to Mylan calling for a price reduction of the medication and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar called for a hearing to investigate the price hike, since Mylan has a near-monolopy on the epinephrine pen market.
Sen. Klobuchar sits on the judiciary committee’s antitrust subcommittee and sent a letter to the FTC asking them to look into the company’s trade practices. But what’s more is that Klobuchar’s daughter also relies on an EpiPen for emergencies, so she knows firsthand the importance of access to the drug, which is considered the first line of defense during an anaphylaxis event.
Mylan purchased the drug in 2007 from another company and since 2009, the potentially life-saving EpiPen has gone up in price from $100 for a pack of two to more than $600 for a pack of two for those without insurance—a more than 500 percent price hike, according to Business Insider.
A 2015 recall of Auvi-Q, the main competitor for EpiPen, means there are less options available for those who need to carry the pens in case of anaphylaxis. Food, medication and latex allergies, as well as allergies to insect bites and stings, are common reasons to carry an EpiPen or to keep one with the school nurse’s office.
Some families have to buy multiple EpiPens per year—one for the child to carry, one with the school nurse’s office, one for home, one for a teacher or caregiver to carry, one for playdates and so on—and the price adds up quickly.
Even though many people have health insurance and there are co-pay coupons available from the manufacturer, the need to buy multiple auto-injector pens can really put a dent in a family’s back-to-school budget, and it's one thing parents aren't willing to cheap out on because their child's life is at stake. The manufacturer coupon can help with reducing the co-pay for people with insurance by up to $100 per prescription, up to three two-packs per prescription, but if you’re uninsured, then what?
Mylan disclosed in an email to Business Insider that about 80 percent of patients with insurance who also used the manufacturer co-pay coupon were able to get the device for no out-of-pocket cost. No word on how many people who are uninsured are having a prescription filled for the EpiPen, though.
Consumer Reports says there’s a generic drug alternative, called Adrenaclick, which is cheaper—but patients and caregivers need to know how to properly use it because it’s slightly different than using an EpiPen. Both the Adrenaclick and EpiPen are recommended to be replaced every 12-18 months.
Some families are also turning to an even cheaper—but less safe—method, according to Consumer Reports. They’re cutting costs by using manual syringes and vials of epinephrine. Because there are different concentrations of the drug available and manual syringes can be more complicated to use in an emergency, doctors recommend that anyone administering the syringe be trained by a doctor or pharmacist on how to inject the drug before an emergency situation occurs. It's troubling that a life-saving medication used by so many is not accessible to all who need it, prompting some to take desperate measures to make sure they're safe enough in case of an extreme allergic reaction.
As one allergist told Consumer reports, the syringe option isn’t ideal, but “it may be the only choice some patients have” because of financial constraints.
In the letter to Mylan, Connecticut Sen. Blumenthal asked the company to respond to the price hike by September 5. But for now, you'll just have to shell out more for your prescription this school year.