I try to be as vigilant as possible when it comes to medical expenses, but I can still be caught napping on occasion.
Last summer while working in my garden I was stung on the ankle by a wasp. Within 24 hours, my leg from the knee down was swollen to twice its normal size.
Although technically not an allergic reaction, it was a severe local reaction. I wondered what would happen if I were stung on the face or neck. So, last month when I saw my doctor for my annual exam, I asked her if it might be prudent for me to have an EpiPen on hand.
She agreed with that idea and asked what pharmacy I used. Via her laptop, she emailed the prescription directly to the pharmacy. So easy!
At the pharmacy, the pharmacy tech rang up the sale. My eyes bugged out when I saw the total – $349! How could that be right? Epinephrine has been around forever; it’s as ordinary as aspirin, for heaven’s sake!
“Three hundred and forty nine dollars?” I asked the tech. “Is that right?”
He looked at the computer. “Sorry, no.” Phew! “I forgot your insurance.” He typed for a moment and hit enter. The new price came up on the screen: $249. Crap.
I could have turned away, but chose to pay and leave with the EpiPen (two pens, actually, since they are only sold in a twin pack now).
At home, I did a little research into why EpiPens are so expensive.
First, there is no generic version. Epinephrine is cheap; it’s the method of delivery – the single-use, auto-injector – that is so expensive.
Second, it’s a case of supply and demand. In the last decade, there has been a steady increase in the number of children with severe allergies. Many schools and day cares are now required to have EpiPens available on site. Because there is little competition, the makers of the EpiPen, Mylan, can pretty much charge whatever they want.
What (expensive) lesson did I learn? Ask for new prescriptions in writing, whether from an old-fashioned prescription pad or from a printer. Contact your pharmacy for a price before you have the prescription filled. If the medication is expensive, call other pharmacies or search online.
If there is no generic available, many pharmaceutical companies will offer coupons or savings cards. For EpiPens, Mylan offers a co-pay card that can save you $100.
Consider yourself fortunate if your insurance only requires a copay for prescriptions, and you don’t have to pay full market cost.
E-prescriptions are convenient, but if you’re trying to save money on medical expenses, get that prescription in writing and take time to comparison shop. I know I will in the future.