Thursday, July 28, 2016

EpiPen- Money Vs. Living

There has been a lot of coverage in the news as well as within our food allergy community over the past few years regarding the increasing costs of EpiPens. With food allergies on the rise, it's frightening to think that an innocent life could be lost just because the necessary life-saving medicine was not something that could be afforded. Everyone always says a person's life is priceless but saying that and actually being able to make sure of that are two very different things. What's sad is that many of us are being forced to choose between having EpiPens to prevent a possible tragedy or not having it and holding our breath in hopes that we won't have ever be in a situation that can never be forgotten.

EpiPens Cost Money
This is just the cold, hard truth. But the real question is WHY? This is a difficult subject for me to discuss as I have shared my thoughts in the past with Mylan (marketing company for EpiPen) and I truly am a person that always tries to give others the benefit of the doubt. You may have noticed that there has been a flurry of spokespeople working to discuss food allergies and EpiPen. Do I appreciate that celebrities are sharing their personal allergy stories? Of course but (there is always a but) the life of a famous celebrity is not quite the same as your everyday food allergic person. In every day life, most of us do not have the extra income to keep as many EpiPens on hand, most of us do not have a live-in chef or nanny to give us the added cushion of knowing that the chance of an allergic reaction will be much less. When I reached out to the representative at Mylan about why EpiPen costs had increased, this was the answer I received "Mylan does not set the final retail cost or out-of-pocket expense charged to patients. The pharmaceutical supply system is complex and, in addition to pharmaceutical manufacturers, involves multiple parties such as wholesalers, pharmacy retailers, pharmacy benefit managers and payors. These parties all play a role in determining access to, and the ultimate retail price of prescription drugs. Any changes within this broader system can effect the final retail price charged to a patient throughout the course of a year. We encourage consumers to check with local pharmacies before having a prescription filled. Websites and apps offer tools to compare the price of prescriptions in local pharmacies." IF this is how the EpiPen prices are increased as well as any other necessary medication, why are we not hearing about people complaining about other drugs too? Some of my thoughts were shared on a WSOCTV by Jason Stoogenke.

View the tv segment here

YOU Can Be the Change
Our voices and the voices of our families can make a difference- they always have! One of the newest ways is to sign a petition on ForeChange.com to help make life-saving EpiPens affordable for everyone (click HERE to sign). If this system is so complex, as stated from my Mylan representative, then let's begin at square one and work together. Let's stop pointing fingers and be a part of changing the cost. Let's show the industry that we are the ones who want to be a part of this system to make it easier for everyone. Is there data that states who should be eligible for the medication to keep them alive and who should not? No and there never should be. Those children that succumbed to an allergic reaction because they did not have the EpiPen they needed- I consider those my children. That teen who ate a cookie that unknowingly had trace amounts of their allergen- that could be my son. Those people who tried to wait to get to a nearby hospital to use their EpiPen because they could only afford to have one - that could be my family member or even me. Make your voice heard and sign the petition now. Go to https://forcechange.com/159185/make-life-saving-epipens-affordable-for-everyone sign it and share it. It may not be the answer but it's a start and from a few voices comes an army of support. There is also another petition (hey, if you want to be the change, do it with everything that you have, everywhere!) go to http://www.petition2congress.com/20720/stop-epipen-price-gouging/. 

The Price Tag
Is there help for some of us to be able to get EpiPens at a discount or even free? Yes but the few alternatives don't always mean they apply to you and your family. The EpiPen $0 copay card can be used in conjunction with some insurance plans but even with this option, they may only cover $100. As you can see in my receipt, without insurance and the EpiPen copay card, our EpiPens would have cost us $1,819.08....how many people do you know that could actually afford this? Ever?! And how does a food allergy parent ever begin to justify not being able to pay this to keep their child alive? In fact, there should never even be the thought of having to watch your child die because of this. That is not acceptable to me and it should not be acceptable to anyone else. Our family is lucky- our insurance covered three EpiPen Twin Packs for $50, then we applied the EpiPen copay card which brought it down to zero. This was wonderful for us but this is not just about how it effects me and my family- it's about making sure everyone else's family is safe as well. It's about support and  helping others stay safe. I keep a set of EpiPens in my purse in case I ever come across someone who needs it- it doesn't matter if it's not my allergic son, what matters is that I help someone who needs it.

More Money Saving Tips
One tip I wanted to share that was passed on to me from our pharmacist Gunar Stowers at Robinhood Family Pharmacy- have your doctor write out the EpiPen prescription for 3 Twin Packs with refills. The prescription will be filled as such (rather than fill one Twin Pack, then go back a month later) and it allows you to get all three EpiPens for the cost of one. This may take some extra work between your pharmacist and your insurance company but it's an easy way to save on the medication and have more of it. Having extras means one less change of a reaction that cannot be treated.

A second way to ensure longer access to EpiPens is one thing that everyone should do- BEFORE your pharmacist rings up your prescription and BEFORE you leave the pharmacy, check the expiration dates on your EpiPen boxes. You are paying for one full year of this medicine and that is what you should be receiving. If your EpiPen expires in less than one year, ask the pharmacy to look through their stock for another box. If they give you grief about it, you may want to consider looking for a new pharmacy that does have your family's best interest at heart. Much like your doctor, your pharmacy is a part of keeping your family alive and well and they are there for you, not the opposite.

A third option is to use SearchRX. This searches for the cheapest EpiPen price that is closest to your home and works directly with pharmacies to reduce the price of medications. By clicking here, it will show you comparisons by pharmacies instantly. You can choose to show the information by lowest price or the mileage but either way, this option will save you time on the phone as well as gas.

I Still Have Hope
Dear Mylan, your company has done wonderful extraordinary things for our community over the past few years. You have provided free EpiPens for schools, you have continued the $0 copay card and you have even been a part of helping multiple states mandate that schools carry EpiPens. I ask you for my family and for others to please help our community with this struggle- continue to be the better company, continue to show your gratitude for all of the people that appreciate what you have done in the past. To be very blunt, what is more important to you- knowing how much money will be inside of your pocket at the end of the year or knowing how many lives your company alone has saved?



I went back through my son's receipts and was astonished at the price difference! 


Share Your Thoughts Below
I want to hear your thoughts about this situation and how it effected your family. A few years ago, Mylan had a website that showed all of the faces using an EpiPen- I am asking all of you to share your photo or a comment below to show Mylan all of the faces that NEED EpiPens but cannot afford them.







12 comments:

  1. These need to be safe and affordable for all of us. I know how important they are as I and my mom have one.

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  2. I don't have any allergies that would cause anaphylactic reactios (that I know of), so I had no idea about the epipens' cost. This is truly shocking! And of course, it does make you wonder what the cost would be if they weren't covered in whole or in part by insurance, and they had to make their money by charging people directly. The public outcry would be so loud they'd need to lower their prices immediately, I suspect.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts Ricki- even your voice supports this :)

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  3. Like Ricki, my family does not have allergies that would necessitate using an epipen. The cost is unbelievable. The tips given to try to save on the cost are valuable. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

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  4. I'm on Medicare and have a Part B insurance, but the Epi-Pen is still going to cost me $300.00. I can't afford it and I can't take allergy shots anymore because I went into Anaphylaxis. I also have asthma. What can I do to get the Epi-Pen?
    magcooker@twc.com

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    1. Have you tried the Patient Assistance Program available through EpiPen?

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  5. This is such an important topic to cover and you've done it so well. Stating that the drug company has nothing to do with the pricing is bunk. Epinephrine is cheap, it's their "patented" delivery systems that are legally protected that allow them to charge so much. Sadly, many other drugs are going up, too, but it is random, not an overall inflation. It has more to do with corporations and legislation than individual pharmacies. Sure, prices at pharmacies can differ a bit, but not THAT much.

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    1. I agree on all points. I was told by some pharmacies that they actual pharmacy really has nothing to do with how to price the medications. Not sure if that information is completely accurate but it makes you wonder where the cost comes from initially.

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  6. My epipen went up to $400 this year. I'm a para (assistant teacher) who is also in school getting a teaching degree. There is no way I could afford $400 for it, and unfortunately Kaiser does not take the card. I ended up getting a written prescription from my doctor and using an online Canadian Pharmacy to get it filled for $127. It took a few more weeks but the cost was very much worth it.

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    1. I am sorry that you had to go through all of the extra steps but I am very happy that you do have something to keep you safe <3

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