Why the EpiPen Monopoly Will Continue: Exploring Alternatives

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Epigate has captured America’s attention this summer. I desperately hope that once the EpiPen debacle has faded into the background that our country is still discussing – and making moves toward – fixing the broken system that brings us pharma price hike scandals at minimum once per year.

In the meantime, after my review of the smoke and mirrors of Mylan’s expanded discount program, which didn’t do much for anyone, many readers reached out with recommendations and questions of their own.

So, while Canada and other countries remain exempt from the horrendous price hikes Mylan’s CEO and board of directors have so kindly foisted on its U.S. consumer base, I went hunting for other options. After looking through our limited options, I fear that the EpiPen monopoly will continue for quite some time.


Make your own epinephrine kit – for under $10!
There have been at least a couple medical professionals recommending that parents consider making their own epinephrine kits. These stories have been circulated on social media as the best new option to replace the EpiPen. Look, I am all for being frugal, but I’m also all for knowing and understanding the limitations of myself and all the other non-medical professionals out there. This is not a good option.

The beauty of the EpiPen is that it is an auto-injector, which means you (a caregiver, friend, or an individual in the midst of a reaction) pull off the cap and administer the medication within seconds of grabbing the pen. If you have never tried to administer a shot with a syringe before, I can tell you from experience that it is hard to get it just right. It can take several minutes to go from vial to injection – and knowing that a severe anaphylactic reaction can cause death within 15 minutes, those moments of preparing a syringe can quite literally be the determination of whether someone lives or dies. It’s not a responsibility I feel equipped to handle, nor would I want to ask my friends, our teachers, or our church leaders to bear such a burden.

If you still think this might be a viable option for you or your loved one, watch this anchor as she tries to prepare a syringe of epinephrine without the stress of an actual reaction occurring near her.

Aren’t there other auto-injectors, or at least a generic available?
Last fall, much of the allergic community grieved through the loss of EpiPen’s largest competitor, the Auvi-Q, in a massive recall. This left only two other little-known auto-injector options on the market. Several readers tipped us off to the Adrenaclick and a generic epinephrine injector. The two injectors look similar in style, therefore my concerns are the same for both:

-The pens are different from what the rest of the population is used to (EpiPen, Auvi-Q) and would require training.

-Once the medication has been administered, the needle does not retract, leaving a “dirty sharp” to be disposed of. If not handled properly, this could be a hazard.

-The generic and the Adrenaclick are often not readily available at the pharmacy, so you may have to wait several days to get your prescription filled.

If these drawbacks are no big deal for you, ask your doctor about a prescription for “epinephrine auto-injector” instead of for “EpiPen” – and then search online for coupons for both injectors.

Update: This morning, as we were about to publish this post, Mylan announced that it would release a generic EpiPen within the next few weeks. The cost will be $300, and there is no further information as to how insurance companies will cover it or if a copay coupon will be available.

Purchase your EpiPens from other countries.
Is this even legal, let alone safe?

Carry around expired EpiPens.
“I’ve read that an expired EpiPen is nearly as effective as a current one, so I’m just going to carry my expired pen for another year.”

I’m not a doctor, but don’t do that. Just don’t.

This is where it comes around to the astute observation of one Scratch or Sniff reader, Alexandra, “’Your money or your life’ pretty much plays it out for anyone needing an EpiPen.”

YES. Our loved ones’ lives should not be dependent on a syringe that takes time to fill, a generic that has an inferior design, purchasing – legally or illegally – possibly questionable medication, or expired medication. In my mind none of these options are truly an answer, just as the expanded discount program Mylan rolled out last week is not the answer to their breathtaking price hikes. These alternatives do not give us medication that is easily administered in a high-stress situation at an affordable price.

We need options. And we need them yesterday.



Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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