Summer fun is coming, which means you might be looking forward to BBQs and campfires. But outdoor events such as these set the scene for serious anaphylactic reactions in people with allergies to insect stings, bug bites and foods that show up at potlucks. “Allergic reactions tend to spike whenever people have more gatherings,” says Shivam Patel, PharmD, a pharmacist in Boston.
If you or any family members have a history of allergic reactions, or if a doctor has warned that you’re at high risk, now is the time to stock up on epinephrine auto-injectors. The lifesaving medication — often referred to by the brand name EpiPen® — comes in a pack of 2 injectors. And you’re going to want to have 2 refills (4 doses) available at all times, says Patel.
“In some cases, you may need to use 2 injectors to treat a reaction, and there can be supply-chain issues getting refills,” he says. “You want to always keep 2 injectors with you and 2 more at home.” And be sure to check the expiration dates regularly.
The catch: EpiPens are costly. You may recall that several years ago, Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, had a virtual monopoly on the market. The cost of the medication went through the roof. Since then, more options have become available, but this medication can still run more than $600 for a pack of 2 injectors. And insurance doesn’t always cover the expense. There are ways to save, however, and we’ve rounded up the best.
The Optum Perks discount card can help you save up to 80% on your medications at pharmacies nationwide. Get yours here.
An EpiPen is a lot like Kleenex®: It’s a brand name that’s often used to describe every product in the category. But just as you can buy off-brand tissue, you can buy epinephrine auto-injectors that aren’t branded EpiPens. They contain the same active ingredients. (Click here to download a coupon.)
While that may seem obvious, many doctors — like the rest of us — use the brand name out of habit. And when they write you a prescription, they may not be aware of the significant cost differences. “Ask your doctor to specifically write your prescription for a generic version, then the pharmacy can fill it with the most affordable option they have on hand,” notes Patel. “Once they write EpiPen on the script, it can’t be easily switched.”
Think about changing your insurance
Check your health care plan: Epinephrine injectors might not be covered. But the odds go up for plans with higher premiums, says Patel. As you’re shopping for insurance, do the math. If your injectors are covered, you may save money by paying more for the policy.
Consider an alternative injector
And don’t just check for EpiPen. There are 3 newer brands of epinephrine injectors that may cost less, depending on your coverage. The brands are Symjepi®, Auvi-Q® and Adrenaclick® (which can also be purchased as a generic). Each version contains epinephrine, which is used to treat anaphylaxis. But the devices function slightly differently. Make sure you understand how to use yours before you’re in an emergency.
Did you know that you can develop new allergies at any age? Learn more here.
Compare pharmacy prices
The cost of the same auto-injector can vary widely from one store to another. So don’t just go to the pharmacy where you buy everything else. Call around and ask about prices. Driving an extra 3 miles could save you hundreds.
Use an Optum Perks pharmacy discount coupon
Optum Perks makes price comparisons even easier. You can shop by zip code to find coupons in your area. In some cases, even without insurance, you’ll be able to buy prescription medication for up to 80% less. Why? Because Optum Perks negotiates prices directly with pharmacies. A recent search for generic epinephrine, for instance, turned up a $110 coupon redeemable at both CVS Pharmacy and Target.
Check the prices of your prescription medications anytime, anywhere with the Optum Perks mobile app.
Use manufacturer discounts
Mylan offers a coupon that you can use 6 times a year to save $300 off a 2-pack of EpiPens. It also offers $25 savings on its generic version of the auto-injector. Auvi-Q, which is smaller and easier to carry than other options and has voice instructions to guide the user, is the most costly option. It can run more than $5,000 for a 2-pack. Odds are you don’t need to spring for that one, says Patel. But if, say, the others are out of stock (which can happen), Auvi-Q’s manufacturer offers a patient assistance program for people without insurance.
Accepted at more than 64,000 pharmacies nationwide, the Optum Perks discount card can help you save money on your prescription medications.
Epinephrine auto-injector overview: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.