It could soon be easier for Ohioans to get EpiPen substitutes

Posted at 6:05 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 19:37:33-04

The EpiPen brand has had a rough year -- after enacting devastating price hikes in 2016, manufacturer Mylan also became the subject of an FDA recall this March -- but, for many customers, the choice of whether or not to buy it is still no choice at all.

What's worse: To pay $600 for a two-pack of medicine or to die of an allergic reaction without it?

"(Not buying an EpiPen) is not a safe gamble," said Antonio Ciaccia, a spokesperson for the Ohio Pharmacist's Association. "It's one that could result in death."

Although far cheaper epinephrine auto-injectors such as CVS's Adrenaclick do exist, current law states that pharmacists filling a prescription for an EpiPen must give the patient exactly that product. If the patient can't afford it, they walk away empty-handed and potentially in life-threatening danger.

The good news is that customers could soon have a third option -- at least in Ohio.

A bill passed Wednesday by the state House of Representatives gives pharmacists filling a prescription the ability make a "reasonable substitution" to a brand-name drug, allowing patients to purchase a more affordable auto-injector if the EpiPen is out of their financial reach.

According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Derek Merrin, passing the bill could save insurers and patients hundreds of dollars. The catch, of course, is that it could take months for the bill to become law.

What can people who need EpiPens but can't afford them do in the meantime?

"Today, a patient could tell their doctor to make sure they're writing the prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector (rather than a brand-name product)," Ciaccia said. "That means he's prescribed a general product, and the pharmacist can pick whichever one."