John Makely / NBC News file
However, those without better insurance plans, or the uninsured, aren’t able to take advantage of the program.
Dr. John Vann, a pediatrician in Omaha, Nebraska recalled the mother of a 14-year-old girl with walnut allergies crying in his office two weeks ago. She was on an HSA with a high deductible, and an EpiPen dual pack would have cost over $600. She didn’t know how she would pay for it.
“You essentially have to have epinephrine around because if you have a reaction you need it,” said Vann. “They hardly ever get used and it’s a good thing — but if you don’t have it, you’re in trouble.”
After doing some quick internet research, Vann was able to find “Adrenaclick,” substitutable as a generic for EpiPen in 21 states, for just $200. The pharmacy was able to order it and have it available the next day.
Not all providers will cover it, though. He tried to do the same for another patient and the drugstore said that patient’s insurance only pays for EpiPens.
“They did a pretty good job marketing themselves where it’s just like Kleenex,” said Vann. “People don’t say ‘epinephrine auto injector,’ they say ‘EpiPen.'”
Patients also expressed outrage in tweets and Facebook posts, and emails to NBC News.
Donna, an archaeology educator in Birmingham, Alabama who asked only her first name to be used, told how she felt her mouth, tongue, and eyes swelling shut after she was stung 26 times by yellow jackets on caving expedition a few years ago. That’s when she learned for the first time that she was allergic. She hiked back several miles to her truck and sought treatment at the nearest hospital, two hours away.
“I barely survived and now have to carry two EpiPens at all times, even to the mailbox,” she wrote in an email. “For Mylan to be the sole producer of this product and hold my life, and the millions of children and adult lives hostage for profit, is extortion and an outrage.”
On Friday Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said he would investigate the “shocking increase.”
“As kids across the country head back to school, it is critical that their parents have affordable access to this life-saving product. I have heard from parents and first responders across Connecticut who are terrified that this steep price increase could put epinephrine out of reach for American families—and literally cost lives,” said the Senator in a statement released to NBC News.
“Sadly, this case is just the latest in a greedy trend of skyrocketing prescription drug prices that are hurting consumers, limiting health options, and strangling our economy. I will investigate this shocking increase and continue doing everything I can in the Senate to combat the rising cost of prescription drugs across the board.”
Senator Blumenthal was the original cosponsor of the bill whose passage awarded grants to states that required public elementary and secondary schools to maintain emergency supplies of epinephrine and authorized school personnel to administer it to students experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.
Source: NBC News