Here's why EpiPen prices have skyrocketed

Published: Jul. 14, 2016 at 6:51 PM CDT
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For people with allergies, an epinephrine injection can be life-saving, but in the past few months, the price has skyrocketed for auto-injectors like EpiPens.

In 2004, you could purchase a single EpiPen injection for about $100. Now, the medicine costs about $600 out of pocket, and you have to buy two injections.

Local health officials say they have concerns, as patients are not able to afford new doses and are holding on to expired injections.

"They are necessary for patients," said Pharmacist Tara Sage at Jayhawk Pharmacy.

EpiPens carry an epinephrine injection used to stop or relieve, sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions.

"Especially if they're allergic to bees or wasps, they need to have those on hand at all times," said Sage.

As the popular brand has skyrocketed in price the past year, Sage says she's seen less of a desire from patients to purchase the medication.

"We've had lots of complaints; Why is it so expensive? Why has it gone up in price so much?" said Sage.

She says it's because many of EpiPen's competitors are dropping out. One brand called Auvi-Q recalled all of its epinephrine injections last year.

"It's just a manufacturer issue and they probably feel like they have a wrap-up in the market and can charge whatever they want for it," said Sage.

Sage also says with the spike in cost, many patients are most likely not filling their doctor prescriptions.

"That is concerning," said Dr. Mary Franz at St. Francis Health.

Dr. Franz says she has prescribed auto-injectors to many patients in her 20 years of medical work.

"What's even more concerning is if my patient doesn't bring that information to my attention so I can correct the issue and provide another solution," said Dr. Franz.

A major reason she believes the price has increased is because of the duo injection pens that come inside the EpiPen box. It raises the cost hundreds of dollars, but she says it's smart to spend the extra money for a back-up dose.

"Let's say you are out with your family doing some wilderness camping and have allergies to bee stings. You use one (EpiPen), but it's six hours from between getting stung and receiving emergency medical care," said Dr. Franz.

She suggests a co-pay card through EpiPen to bring the cost down. We have a link to that attached to this page.

Local AMR personnel carry the medicine in their vehicles, but use lower priced syringes and IV's.

"(We use) single dose vials, multi-dose vials, and pre-filled syringes," said AMR Operations Manager Jon Antrim.

Those doses are only available through AMR, so Antrim says it's best to keep your own auto-injector on you at all times.

"It can make the difference between life or death," said Antrim.