Remember way back in 2016 when we were outraged by the rising cost of EpiPen? How kids and schools couldn’t afford a simple, life-saving treatment? How the company’s CEO was grilled by the government and reporters and they pledged to do something about it?
Well, so much for public outrage. The cost of EpiPen has gone up yet again—by as much as 25%. No, we’re not kidding.
The EpiPen outrage of 2016
It’s been almost exactly year since news broke that EpiPen prices had increased by over 400% since 2007. At that time, Americans paying cash for their EpiPen would pay about $600 for a two-pack. While insurance often covers some of the cost, parents typically buy multiple two-packs to ensure that this life-saving treatment is available at home, school, in the car, or anywhere else they could be needed in an emergency. Those additional pens would not be covered, and the pens also have a limited shelf life, so they have to be repurchased every few years.
Thus, the typical American family would have to spend $1,000 or more to ensure that they had quick access to this life-saving medicine.
The outrage was swift and loud. It seemed like the American public had had enough with high drug prices, and finally something was going to be done. Or was it?
2017: Epipen prices increase by up to 25%
By August 2017, the price Americans are paying for brand-name EpiPen has increased yet again—this time by up to $150. That’s an increase of up to 25% since 2016. Yes, really.
Not all bad news
While all of the epinephrine pens out there are still expensive, there is some good news—you have more ways to save than ever.
- EpiPen and EpiPen Jr now have a less-expensive generic alternative, and a better manufacturer offer.
- CVS has introduced a lower cash price for the Adrenaclick generic.
- Auvi-Q, another epinephrine auto-injector, has been re-approved and is in pharmacies now.
- Another alternative, Symjepi, has also been approved and is expected to be available by the end of 2017.
Read on to find out how to save on each type of pen.
What are my options now?
First, know that all of the currently available epinephrine injectors come in two doses, 0.3 mg for adults and 0.15 mg for children, and come in a package containing two syringes or auto-injectors.
EpiPen and EpiPen Jr are still the most commonly used and prescribed epinephrine auto-injector pens. Mylan made an authorized generic available following the concerns over pricing, and made changes to the discounts they offer. However, we’re still seeing generic cash prices over $300 per two-pack, and brand-name EpiPen prices over $650 per two-pack—up to $750 at some pharmacies. Both generic and brand-name EpiPen have manufacturer discounts available, but they aren’t really going to cut it if you don’t have prescription insurance. The generic offer is for insured patients only. It’ll shave $25 off your insurance co-pay, but you’re still left with a $300+ cash price if you don’t have coverage (a GoodRx discount can drop this to around $150). The situation is about the same for brand-name EpiPen. Again, there’s a manufacturer offer that can drop your cost to $0—but only if you have prescription coverage. Bottom line: if you’re uninsured, or have high deductible prescription coverage, EpiPen (brand and generic) remains just about as costly as in 2016.
Adrenaclick and its generic have been the primary lower-cost alternative to EpiPen through the pricing concerns over the past year. The generic is available for just over $100 from CVS pharmacies, and has a manufacturer offer available that could reduce your co-pay to $0 if you have insurance. Like EpiPen, Adrenaclick is a pen-shaped auto-injector that’s designed to be easy to use.
Auvi-Q was pulled from the market in 2016, and re-released earlier this year. It’s very expensive, over $4500 even with a GoodRx discount, but the manufacturer has a mail order program that should reduce co-pays or out of pocket costs for many people to $0. Auvi-Q has a few unique features as well, like voice instructions to guide you through giving the injection, an auto-retractable needle, and a square shape that’s intended to be easy to carry.
Symjepi has been approved by the FDA, but isn’t in pharmacies yet. Expect to see it in pharmacies by the end of 2017. It’s intended to be a less-expensive alternative to EpiPen, and comes as a two-pack of regular pre-filled syringes, rather than auto-injectors. It won’t be quite as simple to use, and is the only option that will not have a lower 0.15 mg dose available—so this one may not be not a good alternative if your child carries an epinephrine pen. However, it could mean greater savings for some adults and medical professionals.
What can I do to save?
Your savings will depend on your insurance coverage, the pharmacy where you choose to fill, and which option you’ve been prescribed.
First—especially if you have prescription insurance—check for manufacturer discounts:
- The manufacturer offer for generic Adrenaclick can reduce your co-pay to as little as $0, and also offers up to a $300 discount per two-pack for cash-paying patients. Cash prices range from $110 to well over $500, but if you shop around, this can be a huge help whether you have insurance or not.
- EpiPen and EpiPen Jr have similar offers—if you have insurance, your co-pay can be reduced to $0, and cash-paying patients can save up to $300 per two-pack. Keep in mind though, this offer is for brand-name EpiPen, which still costs upwards of $650 if you’re paying out of pocket.
- The EpiPen generic also has a discount available . . . but it only offers $25 savings per fill, and is only available for insured patients. You can still use it if you have insurance that doesn’t cover the EpiPen generic—but without coverage, your cost per fill will likely still be over $300.
- Auvi-Q also offers a mail order program that can reduce your cost to $0. It’s available for all insured patients, and for uninsured patients with a household income below $100,000. If your annual income is higher, you can still receive it at $360 per fill. For comparison, Auvi-Q costs over $4500 per fill.
If you don’t have insurance, a low cash price or a GoodRx discount are the way to go.
CVS pharmacies (including locations inside Target stores) now offer the generic version of Adrenaclick at $109.99 for a two-pack. Walgreens also has a relatively low cash price, at $147.59. CVS and Walgreens are also your lowest-cost pharmacies for the EpiPen generic—discounts for a two-pack at both stores come in under $150.
Is there anything else I should know?
With generic alternatives now available for EpiPen and Adrenaclick, some insurance plans may not cover the brands, or may only cover one or the other. For example, starting in 2018, Express Scripts (which provides prescription benefits for millions of insured Americans) will only offer coverage for EpiPen and its generic. Adrenaclick, generic Adrenaclick, and Auvi-Q are being added to the exclusion list on their national preferred formulary.
If you’re having trouble with the cost of your epinephrine pen, talk to your doctor to see if any of the other options will work for you. Trying a generic alternative or switching to a different brand may save you hundreds per fill.