EpiPen price increase rant

Update: This post was written in 2013. In February 2016, we went to refill his RX and found that our out-of-pocket expense {with our high deductible insurance} was going to cost us $650.  I started to look at other options. I found that I could go to Canada and have the RX filled there for around $100 USD.  Not everyone has driving across the border as an option. 

epipen price increase

Through the 17 years that my son has had this RX, nothing has changed that I can tell. The box is the same, the injector is the same, the only thing that I can tell that is different is that there are more people diagnosed with food allergies and it's necessary to carry an EpiPen with them at all times. Read on to hear this rant from three years ago as the price started to creep up.

A word of caution:
If you don't want to hear me complain, skip this post.
There will be whining but it's a whine of injustice.
My oldest son Aidan was nearly a year old when we found out that he had 
several life-threatening food allergies.
We were flying on a plane to visit my in-laws when I ate some creamed corn.
{remember the days when they used to feed you on a long flight?}

I kissed Aidan on the cheek and his face started to get bumps on it, sort of like acne.
When he was 9 months old we attempted to give him yogurt as one of his first foods.

Again, his face began to swell up.

Mostly because babies don't tend to get food in their mouth as much as they get it on their faces!
We talked to his small-town pediatrician who thought for sure that Aidan must be allergic to the laundry detergent.  You know, because food allergies were so very uncommon 15 years ago.
After a trip to an allergist who poked the living daylights out of him, we found out that Aidan was severely allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts.
Shellfish was a possibility too but because he already got so many pokes, we just elected to just avoid any and all shellfish just in case.

We started carrying an EpiPen because of his anaphylactic reaction to these three known foods.

In the 14 years since we have had a prescription for an epi-pen, we have never had to use it.

Every year it's looked at as a sort of life insurance. Something you buy into and pay money for but that you hope that you don't need.

Year after year though we are finding our "life insurance" going up at astronomical rates!
10 years ago we could fill the EpiPen prescriptions for around $25. I get inflation and all, but the current price is ridiculous!

Last year the price of an EpiPen 2 pack {since 2011, they no longer sell them individually}
was $249.  A price I had to pay completely out of pocket.

This year as I was pricing them out {I called 5 different pharmacies} the price was anywhere from $310-$380. That is {on the low end} a $60 price increase in one year's time.

I took to Facebook to rant about the price of the EpiPen last year and several friends this year sent me information on how to get free EpiPens. Free EpiPen?  Sign me up! I did everything in hopes of taking advantage of the "free" coupon on the manufacturer's website by the expiration date of 12-31-13. I even told several friends about the "free" coupon, and all of them said that by golly it worked!

Aidan's EpiPen expires in February, so I headed into the pharmacy today to make sure I took full advantage of the coupon and that I had the most current EpiPen that would make it to the next year.
You see, the EpiPen expires each year. 12 months, that's all you get...if you are lucky!

I can fill the prescription in December, but the brand new EpiPen I just paid full price for could expire in September.

Through the years, I have learned to ask for the newest EpiPen on the shelves and sometimes I get 12-13 months out of a prescription, and sometimes I get 6 months. This happened once to me as I tried to fill the RX at a Canadian online pharmacy.

My son is in high school and since an EpiPen is a prescription medicine, he has to have a nurse's plan each school year.  The school by law will not let him attend school or any outside events without a current unexpired EpiPen.  Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that because of budget cuts, our school shares a nurse.  The nurse isn't at his school during lunchtime, the prime time when Aidan would be experiencing anaphylaxis.

The fact that a nurse with the medication isn't available doesn't seem to be an issue, though the expiration date of the medication does.  Only because of one word. Liability.

Last year, the expiration date was an issue because while I was in search of a cheaper EpiPen his current EpiPen at school expired.  During the weekend he had a school FBLA state championship he was competing in and he was told that he couldn't attend without a current prescription.  His prescription was on order from an online pharmacy but because it wasn't going to get there until a day after the old EpiPen expired, he wasn't allowed to attend the trip.  I had to cancel the prescription order from the on-line company and pay $100 more for a new prescription from a local pharmacy just so he could seamlessly attend the trip.

Which had me thinking, does an EpiPen really "expire" after its expiration date?

In March of 2013, a teenage college student accidentally ate a cookie with nuts in it.  His parents were advised by the 911 operator to not use the expired EpiPen that they had on hand.  The family used a neighbor's EpiPen but by that time, it was too late.  The teen died later that evening.

In 2000 a group of Canadian researchers collected expired EpiPens and tried to examine the potency of the epinephrine in them.  While the studies found that the amount of epinephrine in an unexpired EpiPen was higher than that of an expired EpiPen, there was still a surprisingly high potency of epinephrine in the expired EpiPen.  EpiPens 5-7 years past their expiration date had 70% potency, while those 2-3 years past their expiration date had a 90% potency rate of the original dosage.  The conclusion from this study and from the untimely death of a teenager is that old epinephrine is better than no epinephrine.

All of this has me thinking that the expiration date on an EpiPen could potentially be extended, requiring allergic individuals to have to buy every 18 months instead of less than every year.

I am thankful that over the years I have purchased 28 EpiPen and never one time had to use them.

I am thankful but annoyed.

Each year I buy something I am {hopefully} never going to use and continue to pay more and more money for it.  Of course, that one time that we will need it I will be thankful that I kept purchasing that EpiPen each year, though my wallet will be thousands of dollars smaller.

The prevalence of food allergies is on the rise with rates doubling and tripling in many countries over the past 10-15 years.  Is there any coincidence to the fact that the EpiPen price continues to rise each year just as the amount of people needing the EpiPen continues to increase?  

Our family has a high deductible health insurance plan. Prescription medication is an out-of-pocket expense that we have to pay 100% of.

As I mentioned before, I call around to various pharmacies because like any product that a store carries, the price varies from pharmacy to pharmacy. {read this to find out how to save money on prescriptions}
Each pharmacy tech I spoke with made an audible gasp or said an empathetic word when they realized the price I would have to shell out this year for my son's EpiPen.

I have a small voice, but I have a voice.

I'm frustrated at the rising cost of this medication.

Since this is the only medication that we refill on a regular basis, I wonder if other medications are increasing in price at the same alarming rate.

Are there people not refilling this prescription because of cost?

Quite honestly, if it wasn't forced on me to have a current prescription of an EpiPen for my son for school, I would probably only renew the prescription every 18 months to 2 years.

Am I the only one in this boat?
Anyone want to whine with me?


Unknown said...

I'm a food allergy mom too. My son doesn't require an epipen but I completely agree with you. I have a friend whose son is my son's age who does carry an epipen for him and she's had to use it. Scary stuff. Allergy parents need to stick together. Especially in the face of school policy. I have found my own son's school to be very understanding, accommodating, and generally willing to listen. But I know that's not really the norm. Many schools don't believe food allergies are a "real thing". My friend who I referred to ran into a lot of push-back from her son's school over the issue.

december.rose said...

I had to get one post partum because I developed some new allergies as my hormones started to decrese. I ended up in the ER one night and got a shot but now have a prescription. Let's just say that little pen is a lot cheaper than a trip to the ER.

Heather at Happy Chippy Junk said...

I am poor...and the 400.00 out of pocket for something I may or may not use...is insane. It is hard to know what to do. My enemy...WASPS!!

Halle said...

I'm with you. I have a severe latex allergy. I can't even walk in Party City without my tongue starting to feel prickly. I was shocked when I went to refill my epipen as well. I decided against refilling at that point. I think mine says on it that it's still good unless the fluid in the window is discolored.

EllensCreativePassage said...

The company who makes the epi pen has a $0 copay "coupon". That means that whatever your insurance pays is fine, but you don't have to pay a penny for it.
I have an anaphyllactic reaction to Latex as well. I too cannot walk into a party store because of the balloon latex in the air. Its constantly on my mind. I am a nurse who had constant exposure to latex gloves, so that's where my allergy came from.
My thought on expired epi pens is that maybe that extra 10-30 effectiveness is the part that saves your life. It's a risk I will not take, mine are always renewed when they expire. And I always make sure before I leave the pharmacy with my new pens that the expiration date is greater than 1 year out, or I refuse it and ask for a longer expiration date. I have always been accomodated.
You can get the coupon here.

Unknown said...

I don't use EpiPens, however I typically stock a range of OTC pain relievers and such for various reasons. Despite "expiring" research shows the active ingredients remain effective so I keep it. I get the school having liability problems, but super frustating! And really 911 operator?!

Carol said...

I am a bit behind in my blog reading and just today am reading this post. I also use the pen and I also have to pay out of my pocket for it. When they went to the double only I found a friend who also has to carry and has only used one twice in 11 years now we split it!! Works perfect!! In her case it needs to be in her name for reason like yours so I pay her half and we are both covered for the year. We agree if we need a second pair in a year we will again both split it...has worked for a few years now. I also spoke with my dr who told me to bring it each time I have a visit and she checks it...until it goes cloudy it is good to use :) I have found they last about two years, so I almost always have two on hand...they may last longer if you are not carrying them outside a lot. We have a pool and bees are my reason for carrying so they are often sitting pool side in the sun. Hope you are able to find a buddy to share with and split that cost in half!! As for the free ones I did do that once..I got a pen that was good for 3 months and still had to buy!! Also if you start to call and check dates a month before you need it they will order you one giving you a min of 15 months. The ones we got this year gave us 18 months...yeah!!!! I have in the past refused to pay for them with less then a year out date and twice were sold them at half price for 9 month exp date.

Unknown said...

The $0 Co-pay program the manufacturer offers covers a maximum of $100 per 2-pack. The lowest pharmacy price near me (via goodrx.com) is $325 per 2-pack. So, my out of pocket cost is $225. And my son will need 2. One to keep at school, and one for home/travel/mom's bag. So, $450 per year, assuming the savings program works as advertised. (They don't always work as easily as the nifty little website suggests.) Last year, before the savings program was established, I paid $250.16 per 2 pack at Costco. So, the manufacturer has raised the price 30% this year. Their patent expires next June and I would expect a competitor or 2 to bring prices down. This is the last year they get to stick it to us.

Monica said...

I have spent 3 solid days working on this. Quotes given from $420 (shopko) to $500+ for 2 pack. Shocked I called a Canadian pharmacy for $300 cash no coupons price. Highway robbery ! Fortunately their patent is up But dateline should investigate this outrageous behavior by this pharmaceutical company ! Gouging families at the end if their patent !
Costco says the price recently increased by $200 for a product sold for $20 in the late 80's Shame on them !! It isn't like we can go without it either !

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