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A Generic EpiPen Is Coming at Half the Price, But Don't Get Too Excited

Photograph by Twenty20

Hell hath no fury like an EpiPen-carrying mom. After Mylan pharmaceuticals, the maker of the EpiPen, recently announced a large price hike to the tune of more than $600 for a two-pack of the life-saving medication used by many families for emergency treatment of anaphylaxis, the backlash over social media was fast and furious.

Doctors, consumer advocates, politicians and even former spokespeople for the EpiPen have criticized the company’s price hike and characterized it as “greedy” and “unfair.” Although few people pay full price out of their own pockets, anyone with a high-deductible health plan or has no insurance at all would likely be paying the outrageous cost all on their own.

For context, an EpiPen cost a mere $57 in 2007, according to USA Today. After the recent price hike, the cost for a two-pack soared to $608, more than a 500 percent markup since Mylan acquired the rights to the drug from its previous owner.

The pharmaceutical company more or less has a monopoly on the epinephrine pen market, as its main competitor was taken off the market in late 2015 and previous reports indicated that a generic version isn’t scheduled to hit the market until at least 2017 due to a setback from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Mylan jacked up the price in anticipation of the generic from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries to bump their profits before the generic becomes available.

Mylan had previously offered $100 co-pay rebate coupons for those needing help paying for their prescription, but it was deemed to not be nearly enough. On August 25, after much criticism, the company announced it would offer coupons covering up to $300 “for patiences in health plans who face higher out-of-pocket costs” and would double the income level that makes families eligible for assistance in purchasing the medication (previously it had been double the federal poverty level). That means a family of four with income up to $97,200 wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for the medication. But that $300 coupon still wasn't enough to quell the critics.

Sarah Jessica Parker, whose 13-year-old son suffers from a life-threatening peanut allergy and who has long been a spokesperson to raise awareness of anaphylaxis, cut ties with the company after the hike, saying “I’m left disappointed, saddened and deeply concerned by Mylan’s actions.” She went on in an Instagram post to say that she ended her relationship with the drugmaker as a “direct result” of the way the price was raised, making it cost-prohibitive for many, even those who have insurance.

Although the brand-name EpiPens will not come down in price, the company will make a generic version of the patented device available at just less than half the cost. The new generic version should be available within a few weeks; however, the Mylan co-pay coupons cannot be applied to the generic epinephrine pen, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We understand the deep frustration and concerns with the cost of EpiPen to the patient,” said Mylan CEO Heather Bresch in a statement, "and have always shared the public’s desire to ensure that this important product be accessible to anyone who needs it.” A news release on the pharmaceutical company's website explained the process by which they are trying to bring the generic product to market as quickly as possible.

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