Breaking News: EpiPen’s Expensive Price May Be Putting Kid’s Health at Risk

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The product’s price significantly spiked this May, after two years of more subtle cost climbs.

As families maneuver into back-to-school mode, EpiPens become more top of mind. This drug is an essential device for children with severe allergies. However, the challenging new price of EpiPens is now creating a substantial amount of concern among parents and allergy sufferers all over the country. The auto-injector’s price has risen by more than 480 percent since 2009, prompting many parents to be unable to cover the cost of this life-saving drug.

EpiPens, which inject epinephrine, are a first-line treatment for individuals experiencing anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. The pens are sold in pairs and until recently, say experts, cost consumers up to 100 dollars (when not covered by health insurance). However, the product’s price significantly spiked this May, after two years of more subtle cost climbs. One pack of EpiPens can now cost the average consumer more than 600 dollars. Mylan, the company who manufactures the drug, released a statement this summer reiterating its commitment to anaphylaxis awareness and treatment but gave no concrete rationale for its decision to spike its price.

“This is a concern for a lot of people,” explains Girish Vitalpur, MD, a pediatric allergist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “We’re not sure why the costs of EpiPens have gone up so much. What we do know: For those with severe allergies, they are an extremely important tool.”

Consider that most families keep multiple packs—at home, school, with each parent—and the costs for families can quickly climb up to $3,000. Some say this price could be more substantiated if EpiPens had a longer shelf life, but the drug typically expires a year after they are issued and then need to be replaced. What’s more, many health experts have divulged that the drug’s active ingredient, epinephrine, actually only cost a few dollars to create. The potential price-gouging of the situation has led some parents to ponder waiting for an upgrade, a move Dr. Vitalpur strongly warns against. “Parents or schools may be tempted to keep EpiPens past the expiration date, but the epinephrine can degrade over time and become less effective, which is why it’s so important to have current pens on hand” he says. To help families better handle this frustrating issue, Dr. Vitalpur offers these options:

  1. Check with your insurance provider. The price increase primarily affects families without insurance coverage or with high deductibles. Some insurance plans do cover the cost. So, call your direct provider to have a detailed chat about your specific situation.
  2. Ask about Adrenaclick, a lesser-known injectable epinephrine device. Depending on insurance coverage, the device may also be expensive, but it’s worth looking into, Dr. Vitalpur says. Adrenaclick works slightly different than the EpiPen, so parents, teachers and caregivers will need to learn how to use it properly. Speak with your doctor to learn if this may be an option for you.
  3. Ask about a savings card. Mylan offers an EpiPen Savings Card through its website that may offer up to $100 off a prescription refill. The site also provides information on a patient assistance program.
  4. Compare pharmacy prices and access coupons at Prices of the drug may vary depending on the venue of purchase, so it may be wise to do some detective work prior to purchase.

-- By Melanie Padgett Powers

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