Skyrocketing EpiPen prices shock those with allergies

Image 1 of 3

Just two weeks into the new school year, Daisy Kniffin got a call that would leave any parent panicking. Her 12-year-old daughter, Alexandra, had a severe allergic reaction at school after touching a table in her sixth-grade art class where another student had eaten peanut butter.

"It's scary," said Kniffin. "She started feeling itchy and hot. She went to the bathroom."

Alexandra said she started having trouble breathing, so she went to the school nurse. She was given an EpiPen shot.

"The nurse saved her life," said Kniffin.

Kniffin said her daughter has suffered from severe peanut allergies since she was a toddler. She was prescribed an EpiPen, which is used in emergencies situations for people with allergies to alleviate their symptoms. The pen often saves lives for those with allergies to peanuts and bee stings.

Having to use the auto-injector led to a new problem for Kniffin.

Mylan, the makers of the EpiPen, recently announced the are increasing the price of the product by nearly 400 percent.

The device, which was sold at a wholesale price of just under $60 in 2007, has risen to $600 for a two-pack in 2016.

According to doctors, parents are feeling the biggest impact. Adults typically carry two emergency pens with them, while parents must stock pens at multiple places where their child spends the day.

"They need more than two EpiPens. They need two for the grandparents, two for school, two for something else, so that means six. If you take six times the cost of these auto-injectors, they become very expensive," said Dr. Richard Lockey of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Associates of Tampa Bay.

In Kniffin's case, she learned her insurance company only covers one box a month, so she has to pay out of pocket to replace her daughter's pen.

Old pens can not be saved. They expire every year.

"I hope that we get some competitors on the market, so these competitors can bring the price down," said Dr. Lockey.

Lockey suggests parents look for alternatives to the EpiPen, which is a brand name of the auto-injector.  He said patients can ask their doctor for a generic brand auto-injector or make their own device.

"They can buy a 1-cc vial of epinephrine, and a 1-cc syringe, then put it in aluminum foil. We can fill the syringe, put it in aluminum foil and carry it around in an eye-glasses case," said Lockey.

He said the homemade injector would still require a prescription, and it should be replaced every three months.

Many state lawmakers are now calling for a price-gouging investigation into Mylan.