Local allergy sufferers affected by EpiPen price spike
October 23, 2016
Steamboat Springs — All it took was a brownie with a walnut on top for Dan McNasby to learn about his 2-year-old son's nut allergy about 11 years ago.
"His mouth started itching and swelling up," said McNasby, who now has three children, age 13, 9 and 8, who all have tested positive for peanut and tree nut allergies.
As a precaution, McNasby keeps three or more Epipen epinephrine injector packs on hand or with his children.
With the skyrocketing costs of the injectors during the past few years, McNasby is one of many who rely on the Epipen but have been forced to reconsider whether they can afford to purchase the injectors, which are used to treat emergency allergic reactions to nuts, bees and other allergens.
McNasby said a two-pack, both of which might be used in a single extended emergency, now costs him about $414 through Wal-Mart after insurance.
The retail price for a two-pen set has increased more than five-fold since 2007, when the Mylan corporation purchased the drug. A two-pack of EpiPens then retailed for about $100, and Mylan has hiked the price 17 times since, with the same pack now retailing for $608.
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The company came under fire earlier this year for the price increases, with critics accusing Mylan of corporate greed. A price-gouging lawsuit between one Ohio consumer is ongoing and may expand into a class-action suit.
"It's shocking that a company would put profit over lives," McNasby said. "It's just amazing that the government will allow a company to have a monopoly on this product."
McNasby said he's tried to ask his children's doctor for a prescription for a vial of epinephrine that he could inject himself — something that would cost much less — but the doctor refused.
While McNasby’s request might seem reasonable, Dr. Chris Speer, of Steamboat Medical Group, said it goes against the standard of care to allow patients to measure their own epinephrine during an emergency.
"If something goes wrong, I would be held liable 100 percent," Speer said. "In a high-pressure situation, it's not as easy as it sounds."
Speer said the other physicians at Steamboat Medical Group agree they also wouldn't prescribe epinephrine alone, though he added he sympathizes with patients affected by the increased prices for EpiPen.
"I don't have any control of how different drugs are priced. I find it super-frustrating," Speer said. "You wouldn't think it would cost nearly that much if they weren't gouging people."
Dr. Kristen Fahrner said the increased price of EpiPens is a serious problem for her many patients with allergies, including those undergoing allergy shot treatments.
"The cost is extraordinarily high and prohibitive," said Fahrner, an otolaryngologist with a fellowship certification in allergy.
Fahrner said the drug is much cheaper in Canada, but laws prohibit the drugs from being exported to the United States, something that could be changed legislatively.
Fahrner said she's heard that the release of a generic version of the EpiPen from Mylan or a new product from another company may be on the horizon, which could result in a less-expensive alternative.
"Hopefully, there's a fix soon," she said.