So You Need an EpiPen…Or Do You?
By now you’ve probably heard about the EpiPen pricing debacle—Mylan, the pharmaceutical company who manufactures EpiPen, has been steadily increasing its pricing since acquiring the drug in 2007. Back then, a two-pack of injectors cost around $100. Now, it costs around $600. While Mylan was increasing the price of EpiPen by 400 percent over the past 8 years, the CEO was getting a sevenfold pay increase. Yeah, yeah, we know… supply and demand, but that just doesn’t seem right. How is it fair to jack up drug costs for a life-saving drug for which there is basically no generic alternative? Fortunately, (to be read sarcastically) Mylan is now offering generic version of the EpiPen for a casual $300 as a response to the understandable frustration of people across the country. The fact that Mylan is being defended by Martin Shkreli just adds insult to injury.
In case you don’t remember, pharmaceutical-villain Martin Shkreli was “the most hated man in America” last year after jacking up the price of a drug used by HIV and cancer patients from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight. Lucky for him he probably made a good chunk of change, un-lucky for him, he’s currently facing federal criminal indictment for fraud charges. So having Martin Shkreli publicly defend your company is akin to having OJ Simpson appointed as your defense attorney in your murder trial.
All jokes aside, being able to afford multiple EpiPens, either for yourself or your children, is a serious matter. To begin with, if you have a severe allergy, you need more than just one on hand. One for your home, one for your car, one for your office…and if it’s your child that needs the EpiPen then it’s one for home, one for school and one for aftercare. EpiPens also expire, which can make replacing unused (or lost) ones pretty brutal on your wallet. So are there any cheaper alternatives to EpiPen prescriptions? The answer is, kind of…
Adrenaclick is an EpiPen alternative available for around $150 at Walmart, making it about half as expensive as the $300 generic form of EpiPen. Adrenaclick and EpiPen are both auto-injectors that deliver an emergency dose of epinephrine into a person’s thigh to counteract anaphylactic shock and potentially prevent death. What’s the difference between EpiPen and Adrenaclick? In order to use Adrenaclick you have to remove two plastic caps whereas to use an EpiPen you only have to remove one plastic cap. Unfortunately, since Adrenaclick and EpiPen are technically two different drugs, pharmacists can’t substitute Adrenaclick for EpiPen, so as the patient you would need to specifically ask your doctor for Adrenaclick.
- Injecting Epinephrine yourself using a syringe
Yes. That is exactly what it sounds like…you have your doctor show you how to use a syringe to self-administer the proper dose of epinephrine intravenously into your own thigh. Unless of course you are an experienced IV drug user, in which case you can skip the tutorial. Conveniently, you can obtain a three-month supply of manual syringes and epinephrine at your local drug store for around $20. Inconveniently, you have to be confident in your ability to draw the proper dose of epinephrine and slowly insert a large needle into your own thigh while simultaneously clinging to consciousness during an anaphylactic crisis. Practicality aside, that doesn’t sound like fun. It also only applies if you’re an adult…children, don’t try this at home!
- Avoiding exposure to allergens
Ok this one isn’t at all serious but my list needed a third item. We all know it’s impossible to avoid exposure to allergens, no matter how careful you are. Hence the necessity of EpiPens. Since turning your entire home into a clean room and forcing your child to walk around in a giant plastic bubble (or I suppose one of those giant hamster balls would do just as well) isn’t a feasible option, chances are you’re going to need an EpiPen, Adrenaclick, or the guts and dexterity to use a syringe on yourself.
The good news is that there are other alternatives to EpiPen being developed. So for those who suffer from life-threatening allergies and a shortage of monetary resources, options are on the way. In the meantime, it’s important that patients know they can compare drug costs at to save money on medical bills. You can compare the costs of an EpiPen online at Save On Medical to see prices at pharmacies near you to make sure you’re getting the best deal available.
Guest Post: Margaret Durkovic