Generic drug maker Sandoz has announced plans to sell an alternative to the allergy injector EpiPen. It will be available in the United States early next year.
The EpiPen injector is a life-saving device used to halt allergic reactions to insect bites, nuts, and other foods. The brand-name EpiPen currently dominates the market for the therapeutic device. It has been in short supply for about a year. An insufficient supply produced a sharp rise in cost to consumers—as much as a 400 percent price hike per pen since 2007. EpiPen seller Mylan offers a generic version of its own device. It is sold in the United States for about $300 per pair. Mylan began selling a discounted version of the EpiPen after it was blasted for the price hikes that pushed costs up as high as $608 for a pair of brand-name devices.
Sandoz plans to sell prefilled syringes with the same medicine—the hormone epinephrine. Sandoz says the price point, without insurance, will be about $250 for two. It will be offered under the name Symjepi. Actual consumer cost will depend upon insurance policies, discount programs, and pharmacy options. Eventually, Sandoz will offer both an adult and a children’s version of the epinephrine syringe.
For people who need the devices on hand, affordable access is essential. Immediate delivery of epinephrine is medically necessary to treat anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylaxis is an immune system response to an allergy. For instance, an individual with a peanut allergy can enter anaphylaxis instantly after coming into contact with the common legume. The body’s immune system recognizes a protein in peanuts as a toxin. It releases a flood of chemicals that try to prevent the toxin from entering the body’s critical systems—such as the respiratory and circulatory systems. Airways constrict, blood pressure drops, and the victim may find himself facing death by his own body’s attempts at protection. A person can die from anaphylaxis rapidly. Getting treatment quickly is crucial.
At the first exposure to such an allergen, an EpiPen user immediately dispenses epinephrine through a tiny needle into a large muscle, such as the thigh. Epinephrine works to reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis. It relaxes muscles to reopen airways and constricts blood vessels to raise blood pressure to normal levels. Epinephrine also increases heart rate to help improve blood flow. Then oxygen can once again reach the body’s cells and systems—and save a life.