EpiPen price hikes leave patients and specialists frustrated

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COLUMBIA -  The recent price hike for the allergy-counteracting epinephrine product, EpiPen, has mid-Missourians upset this week.

"The medicine is not a luxury, it's a necessity," said Holly Higginbotham, a Columbia mother of three.

Higginbotham, whose daughter has a nut allergy and requires EpiPens to be on hand, the price hike just doesn't make sense. 

"As common as allergies are, nut allergies in particular, they should be affordable to any family that needs it," she said.

Higginbotham's insurance plan has allowed her to avoid most issues with the medicine's new pricing, up by over 400 percent since 2004, according to the Washington Post. But not everyone has that option.

Marcy Markes, a family nurse practitioner at Columbia Allergy and Asthma Specialists, said she has seen a rise in patients not sure of what to do.

"People who have the high deductible plans, a lot of times their medications are now incorporated into their deductible," she said. "And that's were we see the biggest problem happening, is that they could be paying five or 600 hundred dollars each time they get an EpiPen until they meet their deductible."

According to Markes, it is not the price of the medication that is rising, but the delivery, the actual EpiPen itself, and the price hike is the most recent of many spanning several years.

"Back in 2008, an EpiPen cost about 57 dollars. So since that time, we've seen increases. It could even be several  during one particular month, over the next few years," she said.

While many patients are seeking cheaper options, generic versions of the EpiPen aren't easy to find.

"There is a generic option, it's called an Adrenaclick. The problem is, is that it's not widely available," she said.

With many children heading back to school, some with allergies, KOMU 8 News reached out to Columbia Public Schools to see what options, if any, are available to students with allergies.

CPS officials released the following statement:

"Every school stocks EpiPens. They are free each year through the EpiPen4Schools program. We have been getting them for the last 3-4 years. Parents also supply their own EpiPen for a child with an anaphylaxis. This is to assure that we can send a stock EpiPen on a field trip and have one at the school in an emergency situation. We have numerous students with EpiPens in our schools. So the cost aspect is really more of an issue for families who have to provide their own pen. The school district which is generously provided pens by the EpiPen4Schools program."

With numerous U.S. lawmakers now calling for an investigation of Mylan, the company that makes EpiPens, Markes is hopeful the pricing will eventually decrease.