This is an update to our 2012 Get to Know the EpiPen article.
For 1 – 2% of Americans, a bee sting or food allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction. Fortunately, these symptoms are easily treatable. Since the 1970s, epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPen being the most common) have provided a life-saving treatment for anaphylaxis.
Unfortunately, patients (and parents) can’t predict where and when a reaction can begin, so they need to purchase EpiPen for home, work, school, car and anywhere else one might be needed in an emergency. Plus, EpiPen has a limited shelf life and need to be replaced frequently, creating more expense.
Why are we telling you all this? Because Epipen prices have increased over 400% from 2011 to 2016. The cash cost of a 2-pack has risen from about $150 to over $600. Not only have prices increased, but you’re paying a larger share of the cost as more and more plans shift to high deductibles.
Why have EpiPen prices increased?
There used to be other alternatives to EpiPen, but they are no longer available. Twinject, with two doses per injector, was discontinued in 2012. Auvi-Q hasn’t been discontinued, but all lots were recalled in 2015, and it isn’t back in pharmacies yet. With so many competitors no longer available, Mylan has been free to raise the cost of EpiPen without decreasing demand.
4 ways to save on EpiPen
- EpiPen, Adrenaclick, and epinephrine are all sold with two injectors per package. Epinephrine is an authorized generic for Adrenaclick (meaning the manufacturer allowed a generic to be made), and is by far your least expensive option, whether you have insurance or not.
- EpiPen manufacturer Mylan does offer a co-pay card to offset the cost. It’s a $0 co-pay card—there’s no minimum you have to pay—but has a savings limit of $100 per fill. This can be a huge help if you have insurance with a typical co-pay. However, if you have a high deductible or pay cash, there are better ways to save.
- Mylan also offers a patient assistance program for uninsured and lower-income patients. It’s worth a look if you’re still having trouble affording EpiPen.
- There are no manufacturer discounts for Adrenaclick, but generic epinephrine is the most affordable pen out there. With a GoodRx discount, you can find it at Walmart for under $150, Walgreens for under $200, and at Rite Aid for just over $200.
- Ask your primary care doctor or pediatrician which auto-injector is best for you—but here are your choices:
- In most states, a prescription is needed for a child or adult to receive epinephrine injections. Some states have changed this so a child can receive an epinephrine injection even without a prescription on file.
- Side effects of epinephrine are minor and pass quickly. You may experience tremor, dizziness, palpitations, anxiety, restlessness, and headache, but they should pass quickly.
- Carry the auto-injector at all times. This seems obvious, but most severe reactions occur when people are out of their normal routines (during exercise, while dining out, attending celebrations and banquets, or traveling).
- When to use it: If you are an adult, use your EpiPen if you are having trouble breathing, feel tightness in the throat, feel lightheaded or think you might pass out.
- How to use it: Epinephrine should ideally be injected into the mid-outer part of the thigh, into the underlying muscle. Intramuscular injection is preferable to subcutaneous injection (under the skin), as it results in more rapid systemic absorption. A second dose may be needed 5 to 15 minutes after the first.
- Why is it so important that epinephrine pens stay readily available? Anyone who has experienced anaphylaxis should have access to epinephrine for self-treatment as it is the best treatment available.