Following recent consumer outrage, the maker of EpiPen emergency allergy shots says it will offer a generic version
at half of the $608 list price.
Mylan says it will sell its generic version for $300, still far beyond its $94 cost when my doctor first prescribed me an EpiPen in 2007.
Recent presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is among those feeling the burn. “We need real competition to lower drug prices, not corporations offering generic versions of their own drugs for whatever price they want,” he wrote on Twitter yesterday.
Because EpiPens cost so much, I’ve skipped replacing them recently (the contents, epinephrine, expire after one year). I’m not defending that as a smart decision, but regardless, uncertainty over how much my insurance will cover of the $608 cost has me balking.
For me, EpiPens are a precaution. But for millions of people with food and insect allergies, they’re a necessity to combat anaphylactic shock.
In 2007 I learned I had acquired a hypersensitivity to yellowjacket stings, apparently from being stung multiple times in three encounters within one year. One time I disturbed a nest in landscape timbers while mowing the lawn, inviting three stings. Shortly after, I stumbled across a ground nest at our cabin, and again I got stung three times. Months later I was stung swatting a yellowjacket away from my fried chicken.
The following Labor Day we went camping at Salmon la Sac. I pulled out my guitar, sat on a picnic table and began playing. I noticed a tiny dark speck silhouetted against the blue sky, looping around from my right. The speck flew straight at my face, and just when I recognized it was a yellowjacket, it stung me on the little flap of skin between my nostrils. Ouch! An unprovoked attack.
What happened next spooked me. My lips and nose began tingling, then they went numb, and soon my daughter said with a frown, “Dad, your face is swelling up.”
Long story short, my entire face swelled into a bulbous mess. My breathing was fine, but the next morning I looked just as bad, so we packed up and went home. I went to an allergy and immunology doc who gave me a steroid shot that cut the swelling in half. Then I started a five-year regimen of allergy shots to build a resistance to yellowjackets and hornets, which I learned are territorial scavengers that will sting to protect their turf.
Five years later, the doc said, “You might be good for life now, or you might need another regimen in a few years. Unfortunately the only way to know for sure is to get stung.”
A yellowjacket obliged the following year. It stung me on my arm, and happily, I only got a welt about the size of a silver dollar. That’s why I consider EpiPens a precaution, not a necessity. But I can’t be sure.
I suppose to be smart, I should choose to be gouged by Mylan, rather than risk being gouged by an angry insect.