Any parent whose child has a severe allergy knows the potentially life-saving power of an EpiPen. The injectable can stop a severe reaction in its tracks, and is pretty much a necessity for some kids at home, and at school, camp, or day care.
I'll admit I don't have a child with a severe allergy, so I hadn't thought about the cost of this essential, airway-opening epinephrine shot. But according to The New York Times, a steep price hike has many families scrambling to afford it. While a set of two EpiPens used to cost $100—already a pretty decent expense— each injector set increased to more than $600 in 2016. Consider too that buying just one set of EpiPens is often not enough, as many schools require kids with severe allergies to have one on hand, as do sports teams and child care facilities.
Making matters worse is that Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the pen, is really the only choice, other than manual syringes, which cost far less. But as Dr. Bruce Lanser, director of the pediatric food allergy program at National Jewish Health, tells Parents.com, "Manual syringes are very hard for non-medically trained people. The dose is very small, hard to measure, and you run a greater risk of injury using the needle."
And that's not the only dose of bad news. Mylan has recently suffered from supply and manufacturer issues, making EpiPens in short supply. And in March 2017, Mylan recalled tens of thousands of EpiPens after two families reported that the injectors had failed to work during an emergency, according to PEOPLE. The FDA issued a warning to the manufacturer that September, claiming they didn't properly handle the situation.
Not all hope is lost for severe allergy sufferers, though. On August 9, Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals approved the first-ever generic alternative to the EpiPen. An auto-injector, it treats an allergic reaction by delivering a dose of ephinephrine. “Today’s approval of the first generic version of the most-widely prescribed epinephrine auto-injector in the U.S. is part of our longstanding commitment to advance access to lower cost, safe and effective generic alternatives once patents and other exclusivities no longer prevent approval,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement. “This approval means patients living with severe allergies who require constant access to life-saving epinephrine should have a lower-cost option, as well as another approved product to help protect against potential drug shortages.”
The FDA also wants to “remove barriers to generic development and market entry of critically important medicines" by approving more generic autoinjectors in the future.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.