Lifesaving drugs cheap for addicts, expensive for parents


The cost of lifesaving drugs is dramatically different, especially when comparing heroin addicts who pay virtually nothing, to parents of children with food allergies who have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A less-expensive generic version of EpiPens will soon be on the market following national outrage over the skyrocketing price over the last five years. Still, a package of two generic epinephrine is $300 for children with food or insect allergies.

“This is price gouging at its finest,” mother Amy Nilson said. “We’ve just seen [the cost of] EpiPen go up, and up, and up.”

Nilson said she’s now paying five times the cost of what she was paying five years ago. Right now, it’s about $600 for two EpiPens. They expire usually after 18 months and must be replaced.

“It’s literally a life or death situation,” eighth-grader Aliya O’Brien said. “So not having it is a problem.”

ABC 6 On Your Side checked local pharmacy costs, proving the vast differences between two common lifesaving drugs.

The heroin overdose reversal drug, naloxone, costs $119 for a two-shot dose under the name brand, Narcan. However, a generic version is only $28 for a double dose.

Two EpiPens, each with a single dose of epinephrine is $581 and the new generic is $298. That’s more than 10 times the cost of a generic version of naloxone.

“We’re really playing with people’s lives here,” mother Tanya O’Brien said.

O’Brien has advocated for schools to stock up on epinephrine, similar to what some do with the heroin reversal drug, naloxone. ABC 6 On Your Side were told many districts just can’t afford it.

“It’s hurting the littlest of our citizens not to have an EpiPen,” Nilson said.

All costs associated with treating food or insect allergies falls on families. In contrast, heroin addicts have greater accessibility to naloxone. They’re often treated at a hospital for little or no cost.

It was just announced that 1,000 Ohio pharmacies are dispensing the heroin reversal drug without a prescription. ABC 6 On Your Side uncovered taxpayers paid $145,000 for 400,000 doses last year.

Epinephrine requires a prescription. In states like Virginia, a law allows parents to purchase epinephrine without a prescription.

A doctor explained that when new generic versions of drugs come out, the price goes down dramatically. Many hope this will be the case with the generic version of epinephrine.

A viewer explained to ABC 6 that there is an alternative brand to Mylan that sells generic epinephrine for about $150. It’s still much more than an addict would pay to save their life from an overdose.

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