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Conaway Bill Package to Combat the Soaring Price of EpiPens Gains Assembly Panel Approval

An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a two-bill package sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. to help combat the soaring price of EpiPens that have made the life-saving treatment unaffordable for many Americans.

Conaway noted that the EpiPen, the name-brand epinephrine auto-injector device that is used to treat the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, cost about $100 in 2007. Today, the medication now costs approximately $600 for a two-pack before any rebates. Currently, there are no generic equivalents that have been deemed therapeutically equivalent by the FDA, thus limiting the ability of pharmacists to offer an affordable alternative to the brand-name device. However, Mylan, the manufacturer of EpiPen, has recently announced the offering of a generic version of their own brand-name product. The generic version is estimated to cost around $300 for a two-pack.

Conaway’s first bill (A-3910) would require pharmacists to offer a cheaper alternative medicine to patients and check with their prescriber.

“Since 2009, the price of the EpiPen has skyrocketed, resulting in significant out-of-pocket costs for many consumers, as well as for first responders, youth camps, and other entities that seek to have epinephrine on hand in case of an emergency,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Approval of a therapeutic-equivalent alternative to the EpiPen would help ensure that epinephrine is available in safe, affordable forms to those who most need this lifesaving medication.”

Specifically, if a patient is prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector device, and there is an alternate epinephrine product available that would reflect a lower cost to the patient, the pharmacist processing the prescription would be required to advise the patient of the availability of the alternate epinephrine product and the potential difference in cost between the prescribed and the alternate products.

If the patient consents, the pharmacist would then contact the prescriber to request approval to dispense the alternate epinephrine product to the patient. If the prescriber approves the substitution, the pharmacist would dispense the alternate epinephrine product.

The requirements of this bill would apply regardless of whether the alternative epinephrine product is included in the current list of interchangeable drug products for the prescribed epinephrine auto-injector device.

“When it comes to a life-threatening allergic reaction, epinephrine can save lives, plain and simple. The skyrocketing cost is nothing short of extortion and needs to be remedied by increasing the availability of generic alternatives,” added Conaway.

To that end, Conaway’s second measure (ACR-199) urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expedite approval of a therapeutic equivalent to the EpiPen.

Both measures were approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee chaired by Conaway.