Stories about: EpiPen

Food allergies and EpiPens: The latest news and research

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Peanut and food allergies can be stressful for parents and patients. The skyrocketing EpiPen price tag has outraged parents and pediatricians, and many families may be unsure about their options. John Lee, MD, clinical director of the Food Allergy Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, shares his insights on the EpiPen price increase and and offers updates on peanut allergy research.

What you need to know about EpiPen now

  • Cost
    • EpiPen recently raised its commercial price to $600 for a standard twin pack. For families with no insurance or high-deductible plans, this can pose some serious challenges. However, the good news is there are a few strategies for lowering the cost.
      • Parents can go to Epipen.com, and download a free, reusable, discount card for up to $300 off a prescription.
      • Mylan, EpiPen’s parent company, has an EpiPen assistance program for families with incomes up to four times above the poverty line.
      • Adrenaclick is an alternatives to EpiPen. Although it has the same epinephrine doses as EpiPen, the mechanism is slightly different. Most school nurses and staff are not trained on Adrenaclick, so it is important to talk to a child’s school nurse before choosing this option.
      • EpiPen has announced it will release a generic model at half the current retail price sometime this fall.
  • New instructions
    I always remind parents to make sure there are unexpired EpiPens with their child’s name at school. Schools typically ask for two injectors that won’t expire during the school year (EpiPens last about one year).
    Parents should also review their child’s Anaphylaxis Action Plan, and be sure to understand the written plan they give to the school.
    • EpiPen recently updated its instructions, because there were numerous reports of kids suffering lacerations in their legs. It’s important for parents to note the changes.
      • Step 1: Stabilize the patient’s leg to minimize movement.
      • Step 2: Hold the EpiPen against the thigh for three seconds.
      • Step 3: Monitor for signs of infection at the injection site.

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The soaring price of EpiPens

EpiPen allergy allergies anaphylaxis
(Intropin/Wikimedia Commons)

According to a 2013 study conducted by the CDC, food allergies among children increased 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. Today, an estimated one in 13 school-aged children has a life-threatening allergy.

Allergists and business analysts alike agree that the EpiPen (an epinephrine auto-injector manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Mylan, Inc.) has evolved into the go-to medication to reverse the harmful effects of anaphylaxis.

But as Bloomberg News analyst Cynthia Koons writes, while Mylan’s marketing strategy—based on a public awareness campaign about childhood allergies—led to a surge in demand, it also fueled a surge in pricing. Since 2007 (the year Mylan purchased the drug brand from Merck KGaA), Koons says, EpiPen wholesale prices have risen approximately 400 percent.

The price jump is hitting patients directly. The single-dose, wholesale cost was $57 during the late 2000s. Today, after insurance discounts, a twin-pack (the injectors are only sold in twin packs) has a $415 price tag:

“[W]hile EpiPen has given countless parents a sense of security that their children can go out in the world safely, the device’s soaring price—up 32 percent in the past year alone—has forced some families to make difficult choices in order to afford the life-saving medicine. The price increases are among the biggest of any top-selling brand drug, according to DRX, a unit of Connecture that tracks drug pricing.”

Learn more about allergy testing and treatment options at Boston Children’s upcoming CME course, Pediatric Asthma & Allergy for Primary Care Providers.

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