#ReportersNotebook I’m a Consumer-Investigative reporter who often covers parenting and health issues. Yet, until recently, even I had no idea there was a viable EpiPen alternative!
I mean, I’d heard of the controversial syringe alternative and that the recalled-brand Auvi-Q was going to bring back its product, but I didn’t realize that a safe and effective EpiPen competitor was already on the market.
Apparently neither did most of the mainstream media. In the original version of my KPIX EpiPen story, I actually cut together a montage of network reporters and experts stating various version of “Mylan has a virtual monopoly,” and “The EpiPen is the only game in town.”
The Epi-Alternative Investigation
I had so many questions. Why don’t we know about the generic? Why aren’t doctors prescribing it? Is it really as safe? What are the drawbacks? How much can it really save consumers?
Before we hit publish on Mallie’s NewsMom post, I had already begun planning my TV investigation.
Here are the bullet points from the KPIX investigation:
- EpiPen Marketing
Mylan has done such an exceptional job of marketing, that now the word “EpiPen” is to epinephrine auto-injectors as “Kleenex” is to facial tissue. So when it comes time to prescribe an auto-injector, doctors say that EpiPen is the first word that comes to mind, it’s easier to write, and they had no idea it had become so expensive.
- Prescription Semantics
Complicating matters, the generic epinephrine auto-injector is technically an authorized generic for another brand, Adrenaclick. So if the word EpiPen appears on the prescription, even if the doctor writes “EpiPen or generic equivalent,” the pharmacist legally cannot give you the generic because the device is slightly different.
Instead, the doctor must write “epinephrine auto-injector” to allow the pharmacist the option of giving you either product.
- Know the Differences
Doctors, pharmacists and the FDA say the generic is as safe and effective as the EpiPen. In fact, Kaiser patients tell me that Kaiser has been offering the alternative for more than a year. The primary differences: The generic has two caps instead of one, the needle in the generic injector does not retract after it is used and you must hold the generic injection for 10 seconds. In May of this year, the FDA changed its EpiPen injection instructions to reduce the amount of time you have to hold EpiPen injection from 10 seconds to 3 seconds.
Epi-Alternative Price Check & Coupons
As always, there was a lot of detailed information that didn’t make it into the news report due to time and relevance to a mass audience. Enter NewsMom.com where we share the additional details that may matter to you.
We priced checked the 2-pack pre-filled auto-injectors at all the major pharmacy chains. Rite Aid was the only pharmacy chain that declined to reveal its prices.
These are the cash prices quoted by each chain without insurance. It appears the generic at CVS is the cheapest option—more than $3000 cheaper than the EpiPen at some other pharmacies.
NOTE: Some pharmacies quoted us prices for the Adrenaclick brand name in addition to these. However, the company that manufactures Adrenaclick, Impax, tells us that it is no longer manufacturing the brand name device. It is only selling the generic.
Now, $219.99 is still pricey, especially if you have to buy multiple auto-injector 2-packs for home, school, etc. Both EpiPen and the generic offer $0 copay cards and discounts without insurance. Depending on your insurance, one may be cheaper than the other.
- GENERIC $0 Copay: Here is $0 copay card for the generic. It’s also good for up to $300 off the cash price.
- EpiPen $0 Copay: Here is a similar $0 copay card or the EpiPen
- Good RX Coupon: Good RX also offers coupons for both Epi and the generic.
Right now the coupon allows you to get the generic for as low as $205 at Rite Aid and $192 at Walgreens. However, these prices are subject to change.
- Mylan No Insurance Offer: Mylan also offers a program that may allow you to get a free EpiPen if you don’t have insurance.
How to Get the Epi-Alternative
Remember, your doctor must write “Epinephrine Auto-Injector” on the prescription in order for the pharmacist to legally give you the generic. The pharmacist can also give you the EpiPen brand with that prescription. However, they cannot give you the generic auto-injector if the word EpiPen appears on the RX.
Impax cites laws in a couple dozen states that may allow pharmacists there to sub the generic for an EpiPen prescription. However, most of the major pharmacy chains tell us that their pharmacists would still likely have to call the doctor due to auditing requirements.
Most of the pharmacy chains also acknowledge that they do not stock the alternative. However, they all say they can order it from their suppliers when requested. We highly recommend that you call ahead and ask that they place an order if you intend to purchase the generic.
No matter which brand of epinephrine auto-injector you choose, it is very important that you, your caregivers and your loved ones practice using it. You will find detailed how-tos at the links below. It is highly recommended that you practice with an auto-injector trainer before you need to use the real thing in an emergency.
- How-To Use The EpiPen
- How-To Use the Generic Epinephrine Auto-Injector
- Order the Free Generic Trainer
NOTE: While the EpiPen trainer comes with the prescription, you have to order the free trainer for the generic from the manufacturer’s website.
Join the Conversation!
How much did your pharmacy charge you? Did the coupons work? Was your doctor willing to write a new prescription? Was the pharmacy willing to order it?
We’ve already had to help a couple people get their hands on a generic RX after their doctor or pharmacy said it could not be done. Let us know if you need help! Was this information helpful?
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