Controversy over high-priced Epi-pen prompts company to provide generic alternative

Controversy over high-priced Epi-pen prompts company to provide generic alternative
(Source: WTOL)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The controversy over the high price of Epi-pens have prompted the company that makes them to provide a cheaper, generic alternative.

Allergic reactions are serious business. With the CDC estimating 43 million people who are at risk for anaphylaxis – the deadliest kind of reaction – it's important for allergy sufferers to have an affordable remedy available to them.

Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes Epi-pens, faced major backlash after announcing the drug's price skyrocketed to $600. The price less than 10 years ago was just $50.

Monday, the company announced that a generic version would be available at 50 percent less than the branded version, but that still makes the drug $300 out of pocket.

A pharmacist at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center says the generic is virtually the same as the branded version, and is equally effective.

"There won't be any difference; we use generics all the time and we have to be sure that they are equal to the brand name," said Ginger Berrie, Pharmacist.

She also says a low cost option for administering the allergy antidote will only cost about $10, but it's not for the faint of heart. It requires using a syringe and a vial of epinephrine and a person will need to be well-trained on how to inject it.

"You have to draw that up in a vile and inject it so it's not as simple and for somebody under stress of an allergic reaction who might have to give it to themselves for someone else and they don't handle stress well that is going to be really a challenge," said Berrie.

The other catch is that pipers expire in one year, but a local allergist says that the drug is still safe to use past the expiration date, as long as the drug has not changed color. If it looks cloudy or brownish in color, instead of clear, it's not safe to use regardless of the expiration date.

Toledo Public Schools and other districts carry Epi-pens for emergency situations, and will continue to do so, in spite of the increased cost.

Epi-pens are free for children on Medicaid; families on employer insurance plans could be eligible for manufacturer coupons.

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