Local families look for EpiPen alternatives after price hike

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Local families are struggling to cope after the price of an EpiPen increased dramatically.

EpiPen prices are drawing criticism from consumers and some medical experts, but alternatives to the name-brand epinephrine delivery devices are available, according to allergy experts.

The surging cost of the EpiPen -- from $100 for two in 2009 to more than $600 for one today -- is causing backlash for the drugmaker Mylan. The company is not budging on price, but it announced a coupon program this week for consumers with high out-of-pocket costs.

Drug coupons have been criticized as a temporary fix, and parents like Tonya Spell say long term solutions are needed.

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Like many other Americans, Spell's insurance doesn't cover the EpiPen. Industry experts say more people are choosing insurance options with higher deductibles and fewer drug options.

"I think that's rather irresponsible to gouge the consumer when it's life-threatening in many cases," Spell said.

People with severe allergies are at risk of deadly reactions and many doctors prescribe EpiPens for fast and easy epinephrine delivery. However, Dr. Carla Davis, an allergy and immunology specialist with Texas Children's Hospital, points out there are alternatives.

"Generic epinephrine has an exposed needle after being given. So, the EpiPen is preferred," Davis said.

While EpiPens are common in the United States, elsewhere an old-fashioned syringe and epinephrine vial are the go-to solutions for severe allergic reactions. It's something many experts like Davis are hesitant to prescribe.

Davis said that, in a stressful situation, trying to fill a syringe with the correct dose can be difficult for an untrained person.

She recommends that parents ask their doctors if a genetic alternative may be right for their families.

Spell is considering using her expired EpiPen if an emergency arises. Davis said that's not a viable solution because the epinephrine potency decrease drastically a year after manufacturing.
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newshealthhealth careallergiesHouston
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