By Kristen Chandler
The EpiPen is the preferred form of auto injector used by allergic individuals and prescribed by doctors. However, the life-saving device has seen a 548 percent price increase under its distributor Mylan. The price increase didn’t happen overnight, but more people seemed to notice the rise over the summer when they went to fill prescriptions for injectors to be left at school. As more parents of kids with food allergies became aware of the problem, they began to alert others outside of the food allergy community through social media and petitions. The price increase didn’t go unnoticed by Congress either, with several of members releasing statements on the matter as well.
During this time, alternative forms of epinephrine injectors were sought out. Not much attention had been paid to these alternatives before, since the EpiPen was the most popular and preferred brand. Most doctors didn’t prescribe anything else, and most pharmacies didn’t carry anything else. It was also speculated by many that Mylan stocks would fall because of their refusal to lower the price.
While the EpiPen still sits at a 92 percent market share and EpiPens were prescribed 26 percent more often in August and September 2016 than August and September of 2015, other epinephrine auto-injector shares besides the EpiPen were at 7.9 percent in September as opposed to 4.3 percent in August.
The data was provided by electronic health records (EHR) vendor Athenahealth. This data doesn’t necessarily prove that the EpiPen price increase is what drove consumers to purchase alternative forms of epinephrine, but Athenahealth’s vice president of research Josh Gray said that the increase in shares of non-EpiPen auto-injectors merits attention.
The rise in shares does show that people are interested in alternative forms of epinephrine auto-injectors, especially if they work and are safe. One of the reasons the EpiPen is so popular is because it contains an exact dosage and is easy to use. The Auvi-Q, one of the EpiPen’s competitors, was popular because the device talked you through the instructions, but it was recalled due to inaccurate dosage. Kaleo, the Auvi-Q developer, has announced that an updated and improved Auvi-Q will be back on the market in 2017. Due to its earlier recall, it’s unknown exactly how warm of a welcome the Auvi-Q injector will receive.
Mylan had previously announced that they would produce a generic version of the EpiPen, but consumers have yet to see it. In the meantime, there are still generic epinephrine auto-injectors available. At cost, they are roughly only about $100 cheaper than the EpiPen, but with some insurance co-pays you can get a two-pack for as little as $15. Savings coupons are also available for these. Generic injectors are a little different than the EpiPen, but the differences are slight.
I was at the nurse’s office of my children’s school recently and noticed generic trainers on her desk. I asked her if I could take it out and look at it and play with it, since all we have ever used is the EpiPen. She said that the biggest difference is that you must remove two caps instead of the one that you must remove on an EpiPen. If you do wish to switch to an alternative version to the EpiPen, you must request that your doctor write a prescription for exactly that. You would also need to make sure the pharmacy you use either carries the alternative brand or can order it. Lastly, you need to be familiar with how to use the new device prior to using it.
What do you think? Are you surprised or not surprised at the increased use of EpiPen alternatives? Do you use EpiPen or an alternative? Would you consider using an alternative if you don’t already? Let us know in the comments section below.