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Auvi-Q Offers Possible Alternative to Epi-Pen(TM)

Auvi-Q Offers Possible Alternative to Epi-Pen

Various Epinepherine Injectors

By Kristen Stewart
February 6th, 2017

Anyone with severe allergies knows the importance of having an epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) at the ready. However, with the Epi-PenTM jumping more than $500 in price in the last eight years and until recently no other companies having an epinephrine auto-injector device available, not everyone can afford this potentially life-saving medication. That may be about to change as Kaleo’s Auvi-Q re-enters the U.S. market on February 14th.

With its smaller credit-card like size and verbal directions for use, the Auvi-Q offers some unique features. Add to that its new pricing strategy and it could be a viable alternative to the more well-known Epi-Pen.

This isn’t Auvi-Q’s first time around the block. It was on the market several years ago in partnership with Sanofi yet failed to gain significant use with it being prescribed only 10 percent as often as its competitors. The EAI device was withdrawn from the commercial medical market in October, 2015 due to potential problems with the injection mechanism. Having solved its manufacturing issues and regained the rights from Sanofi, Kaleo has created an elaborate pricing strategy to make the epinephrine auto-injector available to consumers at an affordable price.

With a list price of $4,500 for two auto-injectors, at first glance the cost seems exorbitant. However, Kaleo Chief Executive Spencer Williamson told CNBC that it is simply due to the complex drug pricing system. In reality it will cost less out of pocket for a commercially insured patient than any other brand or generic epinephrine auto-injector. “There will be no epinephrine auto-injector – branded or even generic – that will cost the patient less out-of-pocket than Auvi-Q,” said Williamson, alluding to Mylan’s branded EpiPen, its new $300 generic two-pack as well as Impax Laboratories’ generic epinephrine two-pen set, which retails at only $110.

Specifically the Auvi-Q will be free to all individuals with commercial insurance (if they have a co-pay Kaleo will cover it). There will also be no cost to consumers who have no insurance or government coverage and make less than $100,000 a year. People who make more than $100,000 a year and have no insurance or government coverage will be charged a maximum of $360.

How can this be possible? The idea is that money paid by insurers will serve to cover the costs for everyone. Williamson noted even private insurance plans will get 30 or 40 percent discounts on the price so no one will actually be paying the $4,500.

Most insurance companies have not yet commented on whether they will cover Auvi-Q. Cigna, a major health insurer, told TheStreet.com that they had no plans to add it to their covered drug lists; they already include epinephrine alternatives that have the same expected result at a lower cost. If Auvi-Q proves a popular choice for patients and their families due to its advanced features, will insurers respond in a positive fashion by adjusting their policies?

Auvi-Q isn’t the only EpiPen alternative to consider. CVS Health recently announced they would be selling a two-pack generic version of Impax Laboratories’ Adrenaclick for $109.99. With potential discounts the cost could be even less. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may approve new products (including generics) for sale this year. 

Determining whether the Auvi-Q, generic Adrenaclick or EpiPen is the right choice is a decision best left to individuals, their doctors and their pocketbooks—but there is no question having more options is the best result for all concerned.

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