An EpiPen, a handheld treatment for allergic reactions, is expensive. If you don't qualify for a discount, ask your local pharmacist and doctor for an alternative.
What is an EpiPen?
EpiPens, syringes filled with epinephrine to treat people having a sudden allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, became increasingly popular after the 2015 recall of AuviQ, then the main rival.
Anaphylaxis triggers include:
- A food allergy, typically peanuts in children and shellfish in adults
- A bee sting
- Medication, particularly penicillin
People can also have severe reactions to cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, and soy. The symptoms include:
- Flushed and swollen mouth
- Chest pain
- Low blood pressure
Your throat can tighten up. If you are unable to breathe, anaphylaxis is potentially fatal.
With a life at stake, keeping a syringe at hand isn’t optional, and with some effort you can avoid the full price. The EpiPen manufacturer offers assistance to some people, or a co-pay coupon to some with private drug insurance coverage. You also can choose an injector that contains epinephrine from another pharmaceutical company.
The important thing is to plan ahead, so you don’t get caught without an injector when you need it. That includes checking the expiration date or condition of an injector you currently own.
Ask your local pharmacist and doctor what you need to do to obtain an alternative: Adrenaclick , AUVI-Q, SYMJEPI, or generic versions. In some states, a pharmacist can fill an EpiPen prescription with an alternative. In most states, you’ll need to ask your doctor to prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector rather than specify EpiPen.
Shopping for a better price
Shopping around can save you hundreds of dollars. GoodRx.com provides pricing with coupons for different brands. You may be able to reduce your cost drastically. With insurance, you may only have to cover a co-pay.
If the product isn’t available, you might ask your pharmacist to order it. Sometimes it will come the next day.
Be sure you read the package inserts of an injector you buy, so you understand how to use it and don’t panic in an emergency. You might ask a pharmacist to give you a demonstration, or you can watch a training video.
When you’re stocking up, think about how many you need, especially if more than one family member has allergies. Small children need the half dose, .15 mg, intended for a body between 33 and 66 pounds. The standard dose for anyone heavier is 0.3 mg.
Caring for your EpiPen
In general, you want to keep an injector with an allergic person or caregiver at all times.
It can tolerate temperatures between 59 and 86 Fahrenheit. Don’t leave it to heat up in a car. Don’t refrigerate or freeze it. Keep it in the protective carrying case, so it isn’t exposed to light. Take it with you or the family on planes, with a note from the doctor.
If you own an injector already, check the side of the box or the injector itself to see if it has expired. If the medicine is cloudy, discolored, or contains particles, it becomes unusable. The pen also isn’t waterproof, so it is no longer usable if your child drops it into the bathtub or toilet.
Don’t plan on reusing an injector even if it still contains some medication. You might give used or unusable injectors to a pharmacy for disposal.
A final warning: If anyone uses the injector as a prank or accidentally, take him to the emergency room.
February 17, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN