EpiPen Price Hike Prompts Some US Families to Buy the Drug in Canada

The price for the EpiPen has increased dramatically since 2009.

ByABC News
August 31, 2016, 12:20 PM

— -- Some U.S. residents reeling from sticker shock of EpiPen prices have turned to Canada for a cheaper options.

The cost of the EpiPen in the U.S. has risen from $100 to more than $600, according to medical literature and multiple pharmacies. In Canada, the cost for a single EpiPen is around $100 to $145, according to Tim Smith, general manager of the Canadian International Pharmaceutical Association (CIPA), a trade group that represents online pharmacies that dispense drugs to both U.S. and Canadian residents. U.S. residents can purchase the drug from online pharmacies as long as they have a prescription.

Online forums for parents struggling to cover the cost for EpiPens often feature at least one user advising other parents to turn to Canada. One of these parents, Nicole Smith, an allergy advocate, said she recently bought EpiPens from a Canadian retailer for her 20-year-old son.

"This is easier than going to the corner [pharmacy]," she said, noting that her son's allergist wrote a prescription that she then used to buy two EpiPens from a Canadian online pharmacy at cost of around $145 per EpiPen.

"People are just outraged and a lot of it is coming to the forefront right now," because of the upcoming school year, she said. "If you bring in an EpiPen for your child it cannot expire during the school year [in Colorado and] most of the parents will be purchasing right before the school year starts."

Smith said she's heard from parents facing a $750 bill for a two-pack of EpiPens before the start of the school year. While Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the EpiPen, does offer a coupon program, Smith said she's heard from my families who are still struggling to cover the cost of multiple EpiPens.

"Many of these families, when the child is younger, you're not just purchasing just one pack," Smith said, pointing out that she used to have three to four EpiPen packs stored in different areas when her son was younger.

This week, Mylan Pharmaceuticals announced it would make a generic EpiPen costing approximately $300 for a two pack, but Smith said the price could still be prohibitive to many families.

There is another epinephrene auto injector on the market with the brand name Adrenaclick, but because the device works differently, Smith said she was hesitant to send her son to college with a new device.

"Our allergist did not want to prescribe that because the mechanism and operation of it is so different from EpiPen," she said.

Smith said CIPA members have seen a strong demand from American customers in recent years.

"Some of our members have seen sales of EpiPen double," Smith told ABC News of sales in the last few years. "It's not the area that we specialize in. For our members, the core of the business is providing maintenance medications [for people] who can't afford medications," in the U.S.

Consumer Reports is advising U.S. residents to not buy drugs from Canada online over concerns that some online pharmacies could be illegitimate and sell inferior products.

Susie Mark, of White Plains, New York, said she asked her husband to buy EpiPens while he was on a business trip to Vancouver this week but her personal doctor initially declined to send the prescription to Canada. She now plans to ask her children's allergist for a prescription.

"I need at minimum four [EpiPen] two-packs for my son and I like to have an extra two-pack at home," she said, noting that her husband told her the cost for a single EpiPen in Canada was $110.

Mark said under her new insurance plan the drug costs $600 out of pocket and with a coupon it's still $499 out of pocket.

If her husband can't get the new EpiPen, Mark said she may look into the Adrenaclick epi injector.

"I think the next time I do need a refill I would definitely go for a company other than Mylan," said Mark, explaining her pharmacist said the Adrenaclick epi injector would cost about $300 out of pocket. "I would much rather give my money to another company."

Mylan Pharmaceuticals did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.