In lieu of the soaring costs for an EpiPen, one local pharmacy chain is offering the life saving, anti-allergic reaction device at no upcharge.
The Canadian Medstore, based out of Zephyrhills, says their cost for an EpiPen Twin Pack is $180, compared to the over $700 being retailed at traditional area pharmacies.
Mylan, the makers of the EpiPen, recently announced it would offer a generic version that would sell for $300 a two-pack. That move came after the company drew intense criticism for increasing its product price 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. It marks the product’s 15th price hike over the past seven years.
The Canadian Medstore, which opened in 2003, has international contracts with pharmacies based in Australia, Canada, England and New Zealand.
In those countries, medications are often 60 percent to 70 percent less expensive than in the United States.
Bill Hepscher, director and founder of the Canadian Medstore, said the company typically “averaged one or two orders in a month” for the EpiPen, but is now seeing a surge in calls from more families requesting the anti-anaphylaxis device.
“We’re literally getting five or 10 calls a day now,” Hepscher said, noting that most of his clientele are seniors on fixed incomes, and families that are uninsured or have high deductible health plans.
Hepscher often witnesses the costs of prescriptions “being a huge issue for families.” But, the EpiPen is a unique situation, he said, because it can mean “life or death for a child.”
“It’s literally the definition of holding a gun to the head because there’s not another option,” he said. “I think that’s why there’s so much outrage.”
Nut and bee allergies are oftentimes hereditary, leading to multiple children or parents needing the product, Hepscher explained.
“Sometimes it’s two or three kids that have the same allergies, and the parent is not only going in and paying $600, but $1,800,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy when you think about a family having to spend that kind of money on a prescription.”
The Medstore, which has six locations throughout central Florida, doesn’t hold any medications on its shelves. Instead, via its customer service center, the company sends prescriptions — which must be filled by an American doctor — to licensed pharmacies in one of those aforementioned four countries. Medications are then mailed directly to patients.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg Businessweek, an EpiPen costs “just several dollars to make,” and contains about “$1 or so worth of epinephrine.”
Hepscher believes the pricing should be in “a more reasonable range,” but also understands the pricing structures of some pharmaceutical giants.
“Of course the argument could be made that it costs so much money to come up with these products,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of family members that if it wasn’t for modern pharmacology, we probably wouldn’t be here anymore. I think the pharmacy industry, in general…is a super innovative industry, and I really believe that there’s a lot of really good, smart people working hard…to make our lives better.
“All I do know is that we can get the same exact medication in Canada or England for a third of the price, so I think that speaks volumes.”
The Canadian Medstore is located at 38176 Medical Center Ave. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit its website at DrugstoreUnlimited.com.
Published September 7, 2016