INDIANAPOLIS – A group of 20 U.S. senators have demanded new answers from Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, in wake of skyrocketing prices that have left many families in panic.
A two-pack of the life-saving injection, for people with severe allergies, has jumped to more than $600 for the brand-name product.
“Mylan’s near monopoly on the epinephrine auto-injector market has allowed you to increase prices well beyond those that are justified,” the letter said.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) was one senator voicing strong concern.
“I have heard from Hoosiers who simply cannot afford the EpiPen and have been forced to take the risk that their expired product will work in the event of an emergency,” Donnelly said in a statement.
Other options do exist, but doctors warn they can either be dangerous or much less accessible than EpiPen, which has worked for years to control the marketplace.
“The hope is we are months away from having a generic to EpiPen,” Kathryn Taylor said, a pharmacist at Riley at IU Health.
Mylan announced Monday it will soon offer a generic version of the EpiPen at half the price, still $300 for a two-pack of the injections.
“They do have other options,” Taylor said.
Adrenaclick is an alternative. Like EpiPen, it delivers an emergency shot of epinephrine, along with its much-lesser known generic called the USP Auto Injector.
“We are increasing our mission to inform patients, caregivers and the professional community regarding the availability of this epinephrine auto-injector project,” Fred Wilkinson said in a company news release Wednesday, president and CEO of Impax Laboratories, maker of the authorized generic of Adrenaclick.
Adrenaclick and its generic injection can be a cheaper alternative to EpiPen, but it all depends on insurance plans, and isn’t as readily accessible to pharmacists and patients.
Beyond that, doctors remind users that distinct differences exist between the usage of an EpiPen and Adrenaclick.
“If you know how to use EpiPen, that’s not going to translate to Adrenaclick and vice versa,” Taylor said.
Noblesville parents Justin and Lexi Henegar have six children, two of them with severe allergies.
The family has looked into the alternatives.
“We actually had to have the pharmacist look it up because we were told there was no other option,” Justin Henegar said.
A much cheaper, do-it-yourself option is a simple syringe and vial of epinephrine, the emergency medication injected through products like EpiPen.
But doctors warn of potential drawbacks and caution of mistakes that can be made with this approach.
"We’ve had a lot of people ask us why don’t you use the cheaper option - a vile and syringe ," Justin Henegar said. "Having a seven-year-old and a three-year-old, it’s hard to imagine someone else or themselves having to put the medicine in the syringe and using that in a time of panic, because that’s what typically happens.”
A law signed by President Barack Obama in 2013, specifically coined “The EpiPen Law” gives incentives to states that encourage schools to stock epinephrine.
Mylan, through its EpiPen4Schools program, has provided more than 700,000 free auto-injectors to schools nationwide.
“We have been a long-term, committed partner to the allergy community and are taking immediate action to help ensure that everyone who needs an EpiPen Auto-Injector gets one,” Heather Bresch said in a company statement last week, CEO of Mylan.
More competition does appear to be coming in the near future. A number of pharmaceuticals have touted recent developments in the works.
Those, though, are subject to federal approval and will have to compete with the laws and incentives already in place, ushed in by Mylan.