The recent dramatic price increases for EpiPens – up from $100 to $600 market price in the past three months – sparked outrage among EpiPen users, House representatives and even politicians like Hillary Clinton.
EpiPen manufacturing company Mylan recently cornered the market on FDA-approved epinephrine injectors, allowing for the price hikes.
In a seven-page letter released early December 2016, the CEO of Mylan attempted to justify the increase, claiming the company “assessed available options under the existing pharmacy billing models to achieve the goal of delivering cost savings for patients with high out-of-pocket expenses and concluded that offering a generic version of EpiPen Auto-Injectors would yield significantly greater and more sustainable cost savings for patients.”
Unsatisfied with this claim, many representatives are pursuing legislation to even the odds in the 94 percent-monopolized medical market. In a recent statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley promised, “I’ll continue to work on my two pending bills that would help bring more generic drugs to the market to help consumers.”
Fortunately, this legislative backlash gave rise to a groundswell of EpiPen competitors both generic and official that should help lower the costs by lifting the monopoly Mylan currently holds. A generic alternative EpiPen is available in most pharmacies for around $300, though most people still consider the price outrageous.
Zach Bower, junior youth ministies major, allergic to most common fruits and vegetables, often restricts his diet so he doesn’t react. When asked whether the recent price hikes to EpiPens have personally affected him, Bower said, “They don’t really affect me that much because my insurance covers the cost of EpiPens. But for anyone else, I think it would be really difficult for them to pay.”
Sophomore Hope Linehan shares much of Bower’s predicament. Allergic to pink peppercorns, most Indian food and all tree nuts “until proven innocent,” Linehan maintains a careful diet so she doesn’t succumb to hives, upset stomach, or – at worst – anaphylaxis. Usually, “Benadryl and a good night’s sleep” is enough to combat her reactions, but she carries her EpiPen, “just in case.”
When asked how the recent price hikes might affect her, Linehan said, “Allergic reactions are usually out of your control, and I don’t think it’s right to have to pay upwards of $300, $600 dollars for something outside of your control. My family has had a lot of unexpected expenses in the past year, so having to pay that much more for epinephrine – if there was some sort of spike in an allergic reaction – it’d be pretty bad.” Due to FDA regulations, epinephrine injectors expire about a year after purchase. For patients who carry them for emergencies but whose insurance doesn’t cover replacements, this means $600 per year.
But perhaps $600 per year won’t be the only option for Bower, Linehan and others. Recently, a handful of EpiPen manufacturers have announced themselves to the EpiPen community – at greatly reduced prices from those offered by Mylan. Some are FDA-approved, and some are do-it-yourself, but all are part of a concerted effort to curb the cost of what would otherwise be a common, easily-accessible medication. Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, for instance, aims for FDA approval for its own EpiPen alternative within the year.
Likewise, former Mylan competitor Kaleo, Auvi-Q, will provide an alternative at greatly reduced costs for those with commercial insurance, and, according to USA Today, for “free or very low costs for lower-income consumers and those with high deductible plans.”
This announcement by Kaleo falls closely on the heels of national pharmacy chain CVS announcing availability for the Adrenaclick, its own generic epinephrine alternative manufactured by Impax Laboratories, at $109.99 for the equivalent of an EpiPen two-pack.
But for those needing epinephrine shots and unconcerned about FDA approval, a cheap DIY alternative designed by the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, called the EpiPencil, is already on the market for around $30, and aims to bring easy-to-use, affordable epinephrine shots to the public.
When asked whether she’d be interested in one of these cheaper alternatives for her standard EpiPen, Linehan said, “We would be interested in cheaper alternatives for getting epinephrine shots, though we’re not much for home remedy stuff.”