Another EpiPen Competitor Is on Its Way

Intropin via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
Intropin via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0 / Intropin via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The makers of the EpiPen competitor Auvi-Q have announced plans to bring their product back to pharmacy shelves in February—at a jaw-droppingly high sticker price. They claim, however, that the high cost won't be shouldered by consumers.

Auto-injectors like the EpiPen and Auvi-Q are often the only thing standing between people with severe allergies and death. The devices deliver a fast-acting dose of epinephrine that can prevent someone from going into, or dying from, anaphylactic shock. In other words, they’re not optional. But they are very, very expensive.

The price of EpiPens has increased more than 450 percent in the last decade or so, and a two-pack will cost the consumer about $600—even if they have health insurance. The new government-mandated generic version costs $300.

CVS drugstores recently threw their hat into the ring with a truly generic version that retails for $109.99. The chain plans to offer a prescription discount program for low-income households that will bring the price for some customers down to just $10.

Now comes the Auvi-Q, which was recalled in 2015 due to its potential for delivering inaccurate dosages. At the time, its price was comparable with the EpiPen’s. When it returns on February 14, manufacturer Kaleo has set the price of two auto-injectors at $4500—a hefty price hike, to say the least.

Kaleo CEO Spencer Williamson told CNBC that there was a method to the Auvi-Q’s mind-boggling cost. He noted that the actual price to consumers would be much lower: free for those with commercial insurance and uninsured households earning less than $100,000, and $360 for those without insurance above that income cap.

Insurers, however, have to be on board for the pricing structure to work, and whether they will be remains to be seen. "We believe the most important price is the price to the patient," Williamson said. "No epinephrine auto-injector, branded or even generic, will cost a commercially insured patient less out of pocket than Auvi-Q."

Time will tell.