CVS has a far cheaper competitor to the $600 EpiPen, but there’s a trick to getting it

“That price is way too high, you need to cut it.”
“That price is way too high, you need to cut it.”
Image: Bob Bird/AP Photo
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Last summer, drug company Mylan shocked EpiPen users and parents of children who might need the life-saving device when it announced the EpiPen would cost over $600, a 300% increase since 2009.

Thanks to a recent price-cut to $109.99 for a two-pack, CVS is now home to the cheapest EpiPen alternative on the market. Just like the EpiPen, the generic epinephrine auto-injector device is used to treat insect stings, exercise-induced conditions, asthma, and allergies related to food, drugs and latex. Getting yours hands on the device for less than the EpiPen $600 list price requires a little trick: Ask for it by name.

The generic is made by Impax Laboratories Inc., which used to produce a brand-name EpiPen competitor called Adrenaclick, but now only makes the generic version.  To get the generic, ask your doctor to write a prescription for “epinephrine auto-injector,”  CVS says. Pharmacists can’t simply swap out an EpiPen prescription for the cheaper generic by law because the generic is not reference listed as required by the Food and Drug Administration.

Redditors noted that the FDA-approved generic can’t be dispensed in place of EpiPen due to slight differences, including a distinct auto-injector needle system. Nonetheless, it contains the same active ingredient and is included with EpiPen among therapeutic options in case of an anaphylaxis emergency by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

“From a safety standpoint and efficacy standpoint, there’s no difference” between the EpiPen and the generic, Jonathan Spergel, an allergist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told “It’s exactly the same medicine.”

In a statement, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America CEP Cary Sennett said, “we’re encouraged to see national efforts to make epinephrine auto-injectors more affordable and more available to Americans across the country. Partnerships that increase access to vital medications are key in helping those suffering from life-threatening allergies.”