Rising EpiPen cost dangerous for people with severe allergies

FILE - This Oct. 10, 2013, file photo, shows an EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Hendersonville, Texas. Mylan has finalized a $465 million federal agreement settling allegations it overbilled Medicaid for its emergency allergy injectors for a decade, charges brought after rival Sanofi filed a whistleblower lawsuit and tipped off the government. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

A potentially life saving drug is now out of reach for many people. The EpiPen, which provides immediate treatment for severe allergic reactions, can now cost upwards of $750, depending on your insurance.

Whitney Slusser has to be careful with everything she eats because of a severe mushroom allergy.

She says, “Even if a handler is cooking and, say, he grabs mushrooms and then cooks my steak, it’s all bad.”

She recently had a dangerous experience at a restaurant, went into anaphylactic shock, and couldn’t breathe.

Slusser says, “Had there not been somebody there with Benedryl and an Epi, the outcome would’ve been very different than me sitting here talking to you.”

But Slusser can’t get the medicine she needs. EpiPens need to be replaced every year and when she went to pick hers up, she was handed a bill for more than $700.

She says, “I cried. I cried and I turned and looked at Sean and said, well you better hope I don’t come into contact with mushrooms because I could die. I literally could die. And I don’t have $754 to shell out for EpiPens. So, it’s kind of a lose lose situation.”

Doctors say there’s no alternative.

Dr. Scott Russell, Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at MUSC, says, “I think this is one of the most upsetting aspects of this increase in cost. There’s really no alternative for epi that’s injected. Intramuscular epinephrine is the treatment of choice for all severe allergic reactions.”

He says he’s worried the emergency room will be full of people who can’t afford the drug.

Dr. Russell says, “It’s a concern and when we see patients in the emergency department, it’s also indicative in the delay in treatment.”

People with severe allergies say their life is on the line.

Slusser says, “Having something so astronomically high that literally is life saving, that I need to save my life, and not having the means to have that isn’t fair and something needs to be done.”

Another concern around this the rising costs of EpiPens is the EpiPens for in schools for students with severe allergies. News 2 reached out to local school districts today and Dorchester County District 2 says all schools are supplied with EpiPens for this year and in coming years they will start to explore resources available for a lower cost. Charleston County School District says they already receive free EpiPens through a private program and the pens are in all Charleston County Schools as well.

If you need an EpiPen and can’t afford one, there are a few options. You can file aninsurance appeal, apply for the EpiPen patient assistance program, or get a couponhere or here.

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