The speed escalating cost of purchasing a life-saving allergy drug dispenser at the pharmacy counter is now a major cause for concern. EpiPen, a drug used for treating severe allergic reaction has seen its price go up for about six folds of recent. A pack of auto-injectors now costs as much as $700 before insurance. This increase has now gained the attention of some federal lawmakers. Parents of children who usually develop food allergies find it more disturbing.
- What’s an EpiPen?
EpiPen is the name of the most common type of epinephrine auto-injector. EpiPen is a pre-filled syringe which delivers a single dose of epinephrine. The drug, an artificially manufactured version of adrenaline, is used to counter anaphylaxis. Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by our bodies. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
- How is it used?
EpiPen has been made to be jabbed into the outside of your thigh. This triggers the spring and the needle is sent into your leg.
Using Auto-injectors like the EpiPen can be much simpler and faster than drawing a dose of epinephrine out of a vessel into a syringe and injecting it into the vein. The convenience and speed have really made it popular among patients with life-threatening allergies. It has proven to be a dependable source of treatment, most especially for children.
- How expensive is it?
Epinephrine, the adrenaline itself is cheap. The dose in an auto-injector may cost as little as $1. The mechanism is what is expensive. This may be the largely due to the tough government standards that has to be met for reliability. Just like a parachute, there must be no reason for failure.
The EpiPen has risen sharply over the past years. The cost for a two-pack of EpiPens in 2008 was less than $100. It was already running just over $600 as of May. Retail prices can rise up to $700 or even more before insurance or discounts.
- Why did they become expensive?
More people are now purchasing higher-deductible health plans. This means they are actually paying more for drugs which may have been covered before.
Due to the changes in the healthcare insurance system, an increasing number of people have now enrolled in high-deductible health plans.
The Affordable Care Act has been the major reason for the hike in cost. It resulted in a lot of new high-deductible insurance policies that are now being sold based on the Exchanges set up by the landmark health-insurance law.
- Is there an alternative that can be bought?
Although, EpiPen is currently the biggest player in the market, but this hike in price has given us reasons to start seeking for alternatives. There is a version known as Adrenaclick. This delivers the same drug but with a different injector. A two-pack is sold for between $140 and about $375.
There is also the old-fashioned way. This involves making use of a syringe filled with the proper dose of epinephrine. Although it may not be as simple as the EpiPen, but it still gets the job done. It remains the typical method available in other countries.
- Will this change anytime soon?
Lack of competition on the market may make this likely impossible for now. It typically takes up to three competing products in a market before there can be a crash in prices. Other things that can help to curb the costs include regulators approving new epinephrine products such as an oral dose. They can also include epinephrine in the list of preventive medicines which insurance plans may have to cover under the ACA.