GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – Dr. Douglas McMahon hears daily complaints from patients in his allergy clinics across the Twin Cities about the rising costs of EpiPens.
The epinephrine injections are the only way to stop an allergic reaction once it starts. Now, with EpiPen as the only maker of the lifesaving medicine, both doctors and patients are reporting a four to five time increase in the price of the device.
“The problem is they sort of have a monopoly on it. The EpiPen was running $100 to $150 and there were some other competitors on the market that have fallen off unfortunately. So now the costs are a lot higher,” said Dr. McMahon.
Dr. McMahon said his patients are now paying $400 to $500 per device after a competitor, Auvi-Q, recently pulled its product from the market.
“There is no other supply so they are able to charge that money, which is kind of a shame to our patients, because some of them go without the medicine and take a risk, which is kind of a scary thought that could be having a severe allergic reaction and possibly die because of a costly medicine,” said Dr. McMahon.
As someone who suffers from a tree nut allergy, Dr. McMahon developed a smaller, portable epinephrine device, called Allergy Stop. It can be carried on a keychain and will soon be available to the public. He also created to be more affordable for patients, with a cost about $50. People interested in the new Allergy Stop device can also contact his office.
“It’s actually a very cheap medicine it only costs a couple cents for the amount to stop a severe reaction,” said McMahon. “The cost of me to produce it is actually not very high so I’m able to make it at a cost affordable price for people.”
As a mother of a multiple food allergy child, and food allergy educator and consultant, Kristin Beltaos hears from families concerned about the price hike of EpiPens, which she says depends on insurance or tiered pharmacy plans.
“If you have a high deductible health plan, and you haven't reached your deductible, you are going to pay more for your epinephrine auto injector,” said Beltaos.
She offers resources and advice on the issue as part her business, A Gift of Miles. Beltaos points out many EpiPen co-pay coupons are available online, giving families a $100 discount.
Her son, Vincent, 10, is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame, and under her insurance, the price hasn’t risen.
“I really do need it, if I didn’t carry it right now there would be a 50 percent chance it could happen, with an allergic reaction,” said Vincent Beltaos.
Kristin Beltaos also believes the higher costs in part may be due to the amount of anaphylaxis awareness the parent company Mylan focuses on, lobbying for legislation across the United States to help provide EpiPens in schools, along with the company's work offering a free children’s book and recipe book about allergies created in partnership with Disney.
“I like to call them the Granddaddy, they’ve been around the longest, they have done a lot of food allergy education,” said Beltaos. “I do understand the costs families go through and you have to find resources.”
Mylan, which manufactures EpiPen, issued this statement in regards to patients experiencing higher costs:
“Mylan has worked tirelessly over the past years advocating for increased anaphylaxis awareness, preparedness and access to treatment. As the leaders in this space, our efforts are aimed at benefiting those living with potentially life-threatening (severe) allergies, and we take this leadership position seriously. Mylan does not set the final retail cost of its products charged to patients. One would have to look across the many parties that constitute the distribution channel as they all play a role in the ultimate access and retail price of prescription drugs in the marketplace.
Mylan does not set the final retail cost of its products charged to patients. One would have to look across the many parties that constitute the distribution channel as they all play a role in the ultimate access and retail price of prescription drugs in the marketplace.We are proud of our patient programs which help support access to treatment:
· Today nearly 250 million insured Americans have access to EpiPen® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injector. For a vast majority of patients, insurance coverage coupled with Mylan’s My EpiPen Savings Card™ means that they could be eligible to receive up to three EpiPen 2-Pak® or EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® cartons per prescription at no cost. Additionally, Mylan offers a patient assistance program for qualifying patients.
· With the rate of food allergies among U.S. children on the rise, now affecting one in 13, preparedness for anaphylaxis in the school setting is critical. Mylan implemented the EpiPen4Schools® initiative in 2012, which provides four free EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors to qualifying schools in the U.S. Today, more than 64,000 schools have participated in the program, including more than 700 schools in Minnesota, and 47 states now have laws related to stocking epinephrine auto-injectors so they may be available to someone experiencing anaphylaxis in the school setting. Several cases in schools across the country in which the free EpiPen® Auto-Injectors were used to treat an anaphylactic reaction underscore the positive impact of the program.
· To further our mission and commitment to ensuring access to treatment, we continue work to expand access to epinephrine beyond schools. Twenty-six states now have entity epinephrine stocking legislation so that public places such as restaurants and colleges and universities may stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors.
We look forward to continuing our unparalleled efforts to drive anaphylaxis awareness, preparedness and access to treatment in support of the millions of families in the U.S. that are managing severe allergies.”