EpiPen Price Hikes Have Parents Panicking

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Essential life-saving medicine should not be a luxury product, but a 400-percent price hike on EpiPens has some parents of kids with severe allergies paying hundreds for the emergency medication

An EpiPen is essential life-saving equipment for people with severe allergies. When allergies can threaten your life, it’s not enough to just try to avoid them. You never know when someone is going to swap olive oil for peanut oil, or use a cleansing agent that is harmless for most people but could kill a person with a certain allergy. Those people carry EpiPens, which are portable devices that deliver an emergency dose of epinephrine, which can stop an allergic reaction. (If Macaulay Culkin’s character had been carrying an EpiPen, My Girl would have been a much different movie.) EpiPens save lives all the time, but recent price hikes have them costing hundreds of dollars.

According to NBC, an EpiPen cost $100 in 2008 and now they cost over $500. There’s no real competition right now, so the Mylan pharmaceutical company, which produces the pens, basically has a monopoly.

The prices people pay for EpiPens actually vary wildly, though, depending on their specific insurance coverage, copays, and whether or not they have insurance at all. There are coupons available that reduce the price of EpiPens, and some people have great insurance and will wind up getting their EpiPens for free. Other people aren’t so lucky, though. It’s not like a person who can’t afford $250 or $300 out of pocket can just choose not to have allergies. Some parents report paying $600 out of pocket for their kids’ EpiPens, even with their insurance.

On top of that, EpiPens have a one-year expiration date. They’re supposed to be replaced if a person goes a year without using it, but the price of them has some people thinking twice about replacing theirs and having to pay huge copays again.

Today I saw at least three people on Facebook saying that they were carrying around expired versions of EpiPens because they couldn’t afford to replace them. Those were their own EpiPens, not for their children, but there are probably a lot of parents out there looking at old EpiPens and thinking, “Well, it’s a year old, but we never used it. It probably still works, right?”