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The start of the school year can be an expensive time for parents, but for parents of kids with severe allergies, it’s been an even more expensive shopping trip in recent years. They also have to buy emergency auto-injectors, and the price of the main one on the market, EpiPen, has skyrocketed.
Epi-pens, sold by drug company Mylan, are generally considered to be the easiest of the auto-injectors to use. Most of its competitors have stopped selling in the US, and Mylan has hiked up the price. About a decade ago, when Mylan acquired the product, EpiPens cost about a hundred dollars for a set of two. Now, the set is more than $600.
Adrienne Stick Butler’s 10 year-old daughter, Maya, has multiple food allergies, and has six EpiPens.
“She has epi-pens that stay in the nurse’s office at school, but because there are different people that drop her off from school and pick her up from school so she’s got a set that stays with her,” said Bulter. She’s definitely noticed the price increase over the years.
“There’s always this sort of moment at the pharmacy when they give me the total,” she said, “and I’m never quite prepared for the big wallop that is the price tag of the epi-pens. But you know, there is no choice. You have to get them.”
Dr. James Baker is CEO at the non-profit Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), and said it’s people with insurance like Butler that are feeling the increase most keenly.
“What we’re seeing is that people who are in insurance plans that have larger co-pays or larger out of pockets before the price of the prescriptions are having to pay this entire price now.”
There are no generic substitutes available for EpiPens as the auto-injector is under patent. The drug, Epinephrine is an old, cheap (less than $1) drug and comes in various strengths (also used in cardiac treatments in the ICU in a different concentration),” said Barbara Young of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in an e-mailed statement.
“There are and have been a few other auto-injector products approved. Adrenaclik is somewhat cheaper. Another was pulled off the market last year as it failed to deliver an accurate dose,” she said. The group also pointed to struggles by hospitals and ambulatory care centers to pay for the more expensive EpiPens.
Dr. Richard Sagall is president of NeedyMeds, which helps people find programs to lower their healthcare costs, and said they are definitely receiving more calls and inquiries about help paying for EpiPens.
“Insurance companies are part of the issue, manufacturers are part of the issue, the general increase in healthcare cost is part of the issue,” he said. “So I think that, in general, no one is doing enough to make these drugs as affordable as they should be.”
Mylan sent us a statement pointing to several programs offering coupons and discounts… which the company says support access to treatment.
Read the full company statement here.
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