EpiPen Costs Affecting Seniors

Most of us have heard about the hype surrounding the astronomical increase in EpiPen devices over the course of several years; according to the Kaiser Foundation, prices from 2007-2016 increased from $94 to $609 per package. Parents of children at risk for life threatening allergic reactions have urged law makers to step in and restrict these dramatic price increases, which are driven by the drug manufacturer.

However, price increases are also affecting seniors: the number of Medicare recipients with prescriptions for the device has risen from 80,000 to 211, 000 (164%) since 2007. As a result of greater acces , Medicare spending on the prescription has risen from $6.4 million – $75.3 million over the same time period.

Increased access to the drug is a cause of concern among some geriatric health professionals; the FDA has issued labeling urging caution when prescribing EpiPen to seniors. Some of the side affects of the active ingredient (epinephrine), include chest pain, a sharp increase in blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms – certainly a cause for concern among patients who already have heart issues.

However, the increase in use by Medicare recipients may not be primarily because seniors are receiving the drug; while Medicare is most often associated with senior health care, 16% of Medicare recipients are younger than 65. Among those under 65, those with disabilities or kidney failure are also eligible for Medicare coverage.

For those who go to the ER with allergic reactions, the first line of defense is epinephrine, regardless of the age of the patient. Upon discharge, these patients are typicallygive an auto injector to take home with them.

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