One side effect of all that fury over the price of the EpiPen seems to be a jump in prescriptions for the drug.
Mylan, the maker of the device used to treat severe allergic reactions, came under fire in late August for the fact that the drug’s price had jumped by 500% since the company acquired it.
In September, however, prescriptions for the EpiPen rose by 14% from the year before, according to data collected by AthenaHealth.
The provider of electronic health records based that estimate on information from close to 1,000 doctors and 78,000 prescriptions.
AthenaHealth doesn’t say why the increase took place, but we can hypothesize a few possible causes. Maybe all publicity really is good publicity, in this case reminding people they needed to replenish their supplies before sending kids back to school. EpiPens have to be replaced every 18 months if they go unused.
It’s also possible that allergy diagnoses were up, or that people were interested in stocking up ahead of any future price increases.
But it’s not all good news for Mylan. Alternatives to the EpiPen also gained ground in prescriptions – also possibly because people learned of their existence through coverage of the issue. By September, EpiPen alternatives had close to 8% of the epinephrine auto-injector market, compared with 4.3% the month before.
This could be a temporary effect, though. Mylan, which makes the EpiPen, announced in response to the outrage over its $600-per-two-pack EpiPen that it would make an authorized generic version for $300, which is expected to arrive by the end of the year. And a generic version of the EpiPen should be hitting the US in the next few years.
AthenaHealth, of course, doesn’t have a complete picture of EpiPen sales. Only Mylan can tell us that, and it will get a chance when it reports earnings in early November.
What the competitive landscape looked like before
In September, Business Insider looked at the number of prescriptions and sales in the US on devices that use epinephrine, another name for the hormone adrenaline, using data from IMS Health.
Among those that used an auto-injector was a device called Twinject that was first approved in 2003. It has since been updated to become Adrenaclick, and Twinject is no longer available. Another device, the Auvi-Q, was first approved in 2012, and it grabbed a large number of prescriptions for a few years before it was recalled last October. The company behind Auvi-Q doesn’t seem to have a timeline specifying when it will be back in the US, if ever.
Combined, prescriptions of these competing epinephrine devices (along with adrenaline and epinephrine that comes in a vial instead of a preloaded auto-injector) paled in comparison to the number written for the EpiPen. The number of prescriptions for any other auto-injector fell to just 6,628 in 2012, though managing to rebound once the Auvi-Q came on the scene the following year.
- Andy Kiersz/Business Insider
How competitors’ sales compare with the EpiPen’s total sales
Adrenaclick’s list price is about $400, while a two-pack of the EpiPen costs about $600. (The actual costs to patients, depending on their insurance plans and the coupons they apply, can be as low as about $200 for an Adrenaclick two-pack or $300 for the EpiPen two-pack, though that varies considerably regionally and by pharmacy.) The Auvi-Q’s list price increased alongside the EpiPen’s, and by the time it was recalled it cost about $500.
- Andy Kiersz/Business Insider