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WNYers worried about rising EpiPen costs

Posted at 11:34 PM, Aug 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 08:05:50-04

Linda Moden Andrews is a pharmacist at Larwood Pharmacy in East Aurora.  She says the shelf-price of an EpiPen prescription has nearly doubled in just a few years.

"The brand name went from the wholesale price of about $400 to now about $730 or $750," she said.

EpiPens are prescribed to individuals with a history of allergic reactions.  The pens inject a small amount of epinephrine to help relieve individuals suffering from a life-threatening allergic reaction.

That jump in price is hurting many families that have EpiPen prescriptions.  Andrews is seeing many people paying entirely out of pocket.  With the typical prescription calling for two boxes, or four doses, Andrews has seen some people pay more than $1400.

With back-to-school shopping well underway, Andrews has seen the high price of EpiPens force parents to make some difficult decisions.

"Parents are deciding that they can't keep the pens with them," she said.  "They can't afford to have a set at home and a set at school."

Jennifer Biel of Angola is allergic to bee stings and relies on EpiPens to make sure she survives long enough to make it to the emergency room.  When she went to fill her yearly prescription, she was shocked at the price she needed to pay.

"With my insurance, the last couple of years, my co-pay has been extremely low.  Around $3," she said.  "I went to go refill it the other day and it's almost $60 if not more."

She's still waiting to hear back from her health insurer to learn the final price.

If the price continues to climb, Biel worries what might happen if she can't afford to fill her prescription.  She says she might have to wait for an ambulance.

"When you're prescribed an EpiPen it is for a life-threatening allergy," she said.  "To wait for somebody else, that can mean a matter of life and death."

Andrews advises people worried about the cost of EpiPen to talk with their doctor about a generic alternative for epinephrine auto-injectors.  The only available option, she explains, uses a two-step preparation.  Since EpiPen is a one-step preparation, doctors need to specifically prescribe the generic alternative.  It can't be substituted by a pharmacist.

Andrews says the wholesale cost of that alternative is $497.

After seeing this story, a viewer told Channel 7 about an EpiPen coupon that reduces the co-pay to $0. The coupon is reusable for each prescription through the end of the year. It covers up to three EpiPen 2-Pak or EpiPen Jr 2-Pak cartons at a time. This will help with parents' concerns of being able to afford enough EpiPens to have at school and at home. You can print the coupon or store it on your smartphone from epipen.com.