For a large portion of Americans, a simple bee sting or a peanut can cause a fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Fortunately, in most cases, these symptoms can be treated by a shot to the leg with an epinephrine auto-injector. Unfortunately, one of the most popular autoinjectors EpiPen costs around $630 and it’s generic version epinephrine costs around $320 for a pack of two autoinjectors, making them unaffordable for many people in need. But there are other alternatives. GoodRx is here to help explain them.
First off, why EpiPen is so expensive?
You may remember the EpiPen pricing controversy from about a year back, but here’s a refresher.
In August 2016 many patients ordering an EpiPen or EpiPen Jr, the autoinjector for children weighing 33 to 66 pounds, experienced sticker shock at the pharmacy. Those paying cash for EpiPen were hit with a bill for a whopping $600 or more for a pack of two auto-injectors. It soon came out that Mylan had increased prices for EpiPen and EpiPen Jr by 400% from 2011 to 2016.
Why was Mylan able to do this? Because they had the market all to themselves. The main competing autoinjector was discontinued in 2012, leaving EpiPen the only autoinjector available to treat anaphylaxis. With competitors out of the game, Mylan was free to gradually raise the cost of EpiPen more than four-fold without decreasing the demand.
When news broke of the large price hike, the outcry was loud. Top news outlets picked up the story, and Mylan was eventually hit with some lawsuits—sparking a nationwide discussion about drug prices. Mylan attempted to ease the public outcry by releasing an authorized generic version of EpiPen—epinephrine. The outrage, it appeared, had worked, and manufacturers were starting to listen and respond. Or so it seemed.
How much does generic Epipen cost?
Unfortunately, prices are still sky high. Cash prices for a pack of two epinephrine auto-injectors currently average around $377. While this is about 50% off brand name EpiPen, it is still not affordable for many Americans. So how can you save?
Are there any cheaper medications I can try?
We have good news! You have three other choices for epinephrine pens in addition to EpiPen and its generic.
- Adrenaclick (epinephrine). There are a lot of benefits to using Adrenaclick and its generic version. Like EpiPen, Adrenaclick is a pen-shaped autoinjector designed to be easy to use. The main difference? Adrenaclick is affordable. The generic is available for around $100 at CVS and has a manufacturer savings program that can reduce your co-pay to as little as $0 per fill. You can read more about this program here.
- Auvi-Q. During the EpiPen pricing controversy, manufacturer Kaleo made it their mission to develop an affordable autoinjector and released Auvi-Q. The average cash price for Auvi-Q is expensive, but the manufacturer has made it easy for many patients to access it for free through the Auvi-Q Affordability program. You can read more about this program here.
- Symjepi. This one was approved by the FDA in June 2017 and isn’t on the market yet. We also aren’t sure how much it is going to cost, although it is intended to be less expensive than EpiPen. For more information about this approval, read our previous post here.
Is there a reason I should use the brand version of EpiPen?
Not really. All of the autoinjectors work equally well. While it’s might be best to find the most affordable one for you, you should always defer to your doctor.
Generic Epipen still works best for me—can I still save?
- Save with a manufacturer coupon or patient assistance program. Manufacturer Mylan offers a manufacturer program, though it only offers $25 each fill for insured patients. That isn’t much for a $300 medication. You can read more about this program here.
- Use a GoodRx coupon for Epinephrine. GoodRx offers discounts for epinephrine online, which can usually save at least $15 off the full retail price.
- Try to appeal your coverage. If you have insurance and your plan doesn’t cover epinephrine, EpiPen or EpiPen Jr, ask your doctor about submitting an appeal. Some plans require authorizations—meaning you need permission from your insurance plan and a special request from your doctor before you can fill your prescription. If you have insurance, call your provider and ask how to get this process started.
It’s officially 2018, which means it’s time to make those new year’s resolutions.
While it might be easy to stick to the resolutions for a few days, sometimes life can catch up with us. So how do you make those difficult new years resolutions stick? Here are some tips from the pharmacist to help you achieve your goals this year.
Lose those extra pounds
If you’ve decided that 2018 is going to be the year you lose that extra baggage you’ve been carrying—congratulations! Losing weight can help with a number of health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, and joint problems to name a few.
If you need help with your weight loss journey, you’re not alone! Many people feel as though the lifestyle changes needed to lose the weight are unsustainable. While there is no miracle pill to help you lose weight, there are some that can help jump-start the weight loss journey. Adipex-P, Contrave, Qsymia, Belviq, and Saxenda are common medications used to promote and maintain weight loss. Be sure to speak with your doctor to see if one of these is right for you.
Quit tobacco products
If you’ve been thinking about kicking your tobacco habit, there’s no better time than now! While quitting that tobacco addiction is one of the best things you can do for your health, it is also one of the hardest things to kick. Over time, quitting can decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Your body will thank you.
While you can try quitting cold turkey, there are some prescription and over the counter medications that can help make the process easier. Over the counter nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum are a great place to start. Prescription-only nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays, in addition to oral tablets like Chantix, and Zyban can be helpful if the over-the-counter medications are strong enough.
If you would like help eliminating tobacco products, quit programs like SmokefreeTXT or your state’s quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) are available to you at no charge. Talking to your doctor, pharmacist, or a tobacco treatment specialist can also help you determine if you are ready to quit and what your next steps should be.
Make the most of your money
The beginning of the new year can be a rough time for many, especially since most health insurance plans restart their deductible phase on January 1st.
You might have signed up for a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Savings Account (FSA) during the previous enrollment season. These accounts will help offset costs while you’re trying to meet your deductible and many employers will also contribute a decent sum of money to them on your behalf. Check with your human resources department for more information specific to your employer.
You also may have noticed that your medications are still expensive, even with insurance. Remember, GoodRx is here to help. GoodRx gathers current prices and discounts to help you find the lowest cost pharmacy for your prescriptions. In fact, for the top 20 Medicare plans in America, 66% of prescriptions can be purchased for less than your typical Medicare co-pay using discounts found on GoodRx. Moral of the story? It pays to use GoodRx!
Take advantage of employer programs
Many employers have programs geared towards your overall health and well-being. It’s in the best interest of a company to have healthy employees as they tend to be happier, cost the company less money, and are usually more productive at work.
Companies might offer wellness programs like discounted or free gym memberships, wellness challenges, incentives for being healthy, or access to a dietician or other healthcare provider.
If you have questions about the type of perks your company offers, check your online employee portal or connect with your human resources department for more information.
Take advantage of free programs in your community
Depending on where you live, you may have access to free wellness programs like exercise classes, nutrition, and cooking classes. Check with your local YMCA, senior centers, libraries, or even local hospitals for more information about programs in your area.
In 2015, Americans spent $1,200 per capita on prescription medications, the highest rate in the world. In the U.S. a 30-day prescription to Xarelto (used to treat blood clots) costs $292, on average – where that same prescription costs just $126 in the UK, $102 in Switzerland, and just $48 in South Africa, according to a 2016 survey by the International Federation of Health Plans. A 28-day supply of Humira, used for Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, costs a whopping $2,669 in the US – but just $822 in Switzerland and $1,362 in the UK.
Just why are prescription drug prices so high in the U.S compared to other countries? There are four main reasons.
- No single-payer negotiation. The U.S. doesn’t negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers like other countries do. In countries where there is single-payer healthcare—in other words where the government pays for most health care costs—those governments have huge negotiating power with pharmaceutical companies to lower prices. In the U.S., a patchwork of private insurers and smaller government programs negotiate prices with drugmakers individually, reducing their bargaining power.
- Little governmental regulation. In many other countries, governments regulate how much a medication can cost. For example, Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) requires that a new medication cannot cost more than the median price of the drug in other countries. Countries in the European Union use similar pricing constraints. The U.S. does not impose similar rules, and therefore pharmaceutical companies set the prices for medications at their will, usually the peak of what they think the market will withstand. This leads to high prices, especially for innovative or unique drugs.
- Prices are rising faster than inflation. Pharmaceutical companies not only set the prices for new drugs when they hit the market, they increase the prices of existing drugs too. According to AARP, in 2015, prices for a sample of 268 widely used brand name drugs increased by 15.5%, compared to an inflation rate of less than 1%. Especially for older brand-name drugs and even generics, dramatic increases can occur. Several instances of astronomical price increases have made the news recently, such as EpiPen and Daraprim.
- Lack of research comparing drugs. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association pinpointed the lack of comparative research across drugs as yet another cause for higher drug spending among Americans. While most doctors are sensitive to the fact that their patients want to avoid high drug prices, their primary goal is to treat patients effectively. It is often easy to find medical research about the efficacy of particular drugs, but there is less research comparing brand-name drugs against each other. Without that research, prescribers may be hesitant to prescribe a cheaper drug that they are less familiar with.
If drug prices are making a dent in your wallet, there are ways to save:
- Ask your doctor about cheaper options: Especially once generic versions of drugs are available, there may be less expensive choices out there.
- Use a GoodRx coupon: GoodRx helps you compare drug prices at various pharmacies and provides coupons for the lowest prices for many drugs. Independent researchers found that GoodRx is the best discount service for finding the lowest price.
- Make sure your insurance covers your medication, or go for a different one: Your insurance may not cover a particular drug, but usually it will cover another option for your condition.
- Manufacturer assistance programs or coupons can lower prices: If you’re purchasing a brand name drug, pharmaceutical companies often offer coupons or patient assistance programs. GoodRx highlights manufacturer coupons in the savings tips sections of our drug pages.
- Purchase a 90-day supply: Purchasing a larger supply of your medication can cut costs, as long as you clear it with your insurer. In order to fill a 90-day supply, you need a new prescription from your healthcare provider.
- Cut higher dose pills in half: Sometimes filling a higher dose prescription and cutting pills in half can save money. You’ll need to contact your doctor to get a new prescription and make sure that’s a safe option.
- Use a mail-order pharmacy: Private insurance and Medicare may offer discounts if you fill your prescriptions through their mail-order pharmacies, especially for generic drugs.
- Use an online pharmacy, with caution: Online pharmacies can provide good deals, but be wary of the “too good to be true” offers in the wilds of the internet. Follow these tips to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable online pharmacy.
Special note: Considering crossing the border for your medications? Just know that it is illegal to import pharmaceuticals even for personal use.
Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol) is a common maintenance inhaler, taken on a daily basis to treat asthma and COPD, but it’s not cheap. Cash prices average around $323 for one inhaler, and out of pocket costs for those who fill Symbicort regularly can be unmanageable.
Symbicort works well. Around 60% of people rate that Symbicort is ‘worth it’, according to our friends at Iodine. If Symbicort works well for you, or your doctor thinks it’s best for you, how can you make it more affordable? Here’s some information about Symbicort and how you can save.
How Popular is Symbicort?
When will generic Symbicort be available?
As of December 2017, there is no generic Symbicort available. In January of 2017, manufacturer AstraZeneca received an extension on their patent exclusivity, which will allow for them to continue to be the sole manufacturer until mid to late 2018.
At present, there have been few reports of manufacturers developing a generic alternative, and no applications have been approved by the FDA. But with increasing pressure from popular inhaler Advair, and AirDuo (AirDuo just got its first generic equivalent), AstraZeneca will need to keep their prices for Symbicort competitive. While this doesn’t necessarily mean we will see a generic soon, this competition could speed up the process.
Are there any cheaper alternatives?
Since few generic beta agonist/corticosteroid inhalers exist, cash prices for alternatives could be just as expensive as Symbicort. However, depending on your insurance coverage, some alternative inhalers might be more affordable.
- Breo Ellipta is another common inhaler used to treat asthma and COPD and is used to provide long-term control of symptoms. The downside? Breo Ellipta contains an ingredient that can cause a yeast build up in your mouth and throat, and should not be taken by those who are allergic to milk.
- Dulera is a combination inhaler used to improve lung function and can reduce the number of asthma flare-ups by 70%.
- AirDuo (fluticasone/salmeterol) is one of the only alternative inhalers that has a generic. In fact manufacturer, Teva released brand name AirDuo and a generic fluticasone/salmeterol at the same time – the move was aimed at increasing access to lower-cost inhalers and competing in the asthma inhaler marketplace. Cash prices for generic fluticasone/salmeterol average around $89. That’s definitely more affordable than $323 for Advair. As always, be sure to speak with your doctor to see if AirDuo is right for you.
Symbicort is also often compared to GlaxoSmithKline’s popular inhaler Advair, but how interchangeable are they?
Symbicort vs Advair
Advair and Symbicort are very similar in nature—and many patients wonder which is best for them. While both Symbicort and Advair are both used to treat Asthma and COPD, they have several noteworthy differences.
First off, Symbicort and Advair have different active ingredients. These active ingredients are especially important to pay attention to, especially if you are on other medications that could have a negative interaction.
Another difference? The price. Advair tends to be a little more expensive. The average cash price for Advair is $367, while Symbicort is $323.
One final note. Be sure you know that both Symbicort and Advair are not rescue inhalers – they cannot be used to treat acute symptoms like an asthma attack.
Symbicort still works best for me: How can I save?
- Save with Symbicort’s manufacturer coupon or patient assistance program. Manufacturer AstraZeneca offers a manufacturer coupon program and patient assistance program for patients with and without insurance coverage. The Symbicort $25 Guarantee Program can reduce your payment to as little as $25 per month for one year, while the Patient Assistance Program can help you receive your medication at no cost if you qualify. For more information on eligibility and enrolling, be sure to read through our Symbicort Savings Tips.
- Use a Symbicort coupon from GoodRx. GoodRx offers discounts for Symbicort online which can save at least 15% off the full retail price
- Try to appeal your coverage. If you have insurance and your plan doesn’t cover Symbicort, ask your doctor about submitting an appeal, Some plans require prior authorizations—meaning you need permission from your insurance plan and a special request from your doctor before you can fill your prescription. If you have insurance, call your provider and ask how to get this process started.
Watch out—birth control is getting political again. And even if you avoid politics, you’ll want to pay attention.
Recent changes to the Affordable Care Act mean that employers are no longer required to cover birth control as part of preventative care. This means that if you’re a woman and have health insurance through your employer or school, like Catholic university Notre Dame, your access to contraception may disappear in the next few months. (Women taking birth control for a medical condition will not be affected, only those using it for pregnancy prevention.)
If you’re currently taking birth control and your coverage does end, don’t panic. Chances are GoodRx has discounted prices for the type of birth control you’re on, so you don’t have to pay the full retail price out of pocket.
Here’s what to do if . . .
You’re on the pill
- Search for your pill on GoodRx. There are hundreds of oral contraceptive brands out there, and GoodRx offers savings for a majority of them – and almost certainly the most commonly prescribed options.
- If you’re on a brand-name version of the pill, call your doctor to see if they can switch you to the generic form as generics tend to be 70-80% cheaper.
- Popular birth control pills: tri-previfem ($8.92), orsythia ($14.92), junel FE 1/20 ($15.17), camila ($8.91)
You’re using the patch or the ring
- These are monthly costs so you may want to consider switching to another type of birth control if it is too expensive in the long run.
- GoodRx can save you 38% on the patch (Xulane, $86.21) and 11% on the ring (NuvaRing, $149.98).
You’re taking the shot
- The generic version (medroxyprogesterone, $43.54) costs 60% less with GoodRx—and lasts 3 months at a time.
You have an IUD or implant
- Implants last 4 years and IUDs last 3 – 12 years (depending on the type of IUD you have) so you’re probably protected for a little while longer.
- If you do have to get your contraceptive device removed soon, the procedure itself can cost up to $300. Contact your local Planned Parenthood health center as they may charge you less, with or without insurance.
- After removal, you can look at other birth control options to continue preventing pregnancy, and save with GoodRx.
Prices shown are average GoodRx discounted prices as of Nov 2, 2017. Local results may vary.