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CVS Pharmacy announces it is selling a similar, lower-cost EpiPen


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The CVS Pharmacy along West Liberty Avenue in Dormont.

By Patricia Sabatini / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taking a stab at breaking the market dominance of Mylan’s EpiPen allergy shot, CVS Pharmacy announced it has begun selling a similar auto-injector at a fraction of the cost.

The nation’s biggest drugstore chain said the generic version of Adrenaclick — a tiny EpiPen competitor — was priced at $109.99 per two-pack. That compares with $649.99 a pack for the EpiPen and $339.99 for the generic EpiPen that local drug giant Mylan launched last month, CVS said.

“We recognized the urgent need for a less-expensive epinephrine auto-injector, and are proud to offer a low-cost option,” CVS said in a statement. The Rhode Island-based company has some 9,600 stores nationwide.

The generic Adrenaclick, owned by Impax Laboratories in California, contains the same medication to counteract life-threatening allergic reactions as the EpiPen, but uses a slightly different delivery system. The brand-name version of Adrenaclick is no longer manufactured.

A year ago, the device held a tiny 4 percent market share, according to Impax. Since then, its share has risen to around 9 percent amid growing outrage over the spiraling cost of the EpiPen, spokesman Mark Donohue said Thursday.

CVS had been selling the device for around $200. Mr. Donohue said he couldn’t provide any projections for capturing additional market share at the lower price.

Although the Impax device is assembled by hand, the company has been keeping up with demand, he said.

“CVS will have product in all of their stores,” he said. Impax plans to automate the process by the end of this year or the beginning of 2018, he said.

Mylan, which is run from executive offices in Cecil but is incorporated in the Netherlands, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

South Park resident Jill Piel, who relies on auto-injectors to protect her 11-year-old son with peanut allergies, called CVS’s announcement great news for her family.

She used to buy three boxes of EpiPens to have at school, at home and in her purse. Last summer, she “almost had a stroke” when her pharmacy told her each set would cost $500. Even though she’s never had to use one, the EpiPens have to be replaced annually because they expire.

“I went home and broke down,” she said. “You need it. And at the time, I thought [EpiPen] was my only choice.”

After doing some research into alternatives, she got her son’s allergist to write a prescription for the generic Adrenaclick, which cost her around $175 a box.

“That was such a relief,” she said. She said CVS offering the two-pack for $110 was “more good news.”

CVS said patients should speak with their health care provider about possibly switching to the generic Adrenaclick.

“The provider can then write a prescription for ‘epinephrine auto-injector’ to ensure the lowest cost product is filled,” the company said.

The $109.99 price tag applies to cash-paying customers and those covered by insurance, lowering their out-of-pocket costs, CVS said. Impax also offers a coupon program for qualifying patients that can cut the cost even more, the company said.

Skyrocketing drug prices have become a growing concern among consumers and on Capitol Hill.

As furor grew late last summer over the cost of the EpiPen, which has soared some 500 percent in recent years, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch was called to testify before a House committee hearing during which lawmakers blasted the company for what they considered corporate greed and price-gouging.

In his first news conference as president-elect, Donald Trump on Wednesday attacked drug makers for their price hikes, saying they were “getting away with murder.”

Mr. Trump’s comments immediately sent drug stocks lower, with Mylan shares losing $1.67 on Wednesday. Shares gave up another 51 cents Thursday, to close at $36.77.

Patricia Sabatini: PSabatini@post-gazette.com; 412-263-3066.

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