Individuals with severe allergies often rely on the lifesaving EpiPen when they suffer from potentially fatal allergic attacks. Unfortunately, the price of the device has skyrocketed over the past few years putting a strain on the budget of families who rely on it.

What Is EpiPen?

EpiPen is a device used to treat severe allergic reactions that make it difficult to breathe, a potentially deadly condition known as anaphylaxis. The device is used to deliver epinephrine, a drug that can counter the effects of allergic reactions. EpiPen uses a technology that makes it easy for users to inject themselves with the drug during an emergency.

The Rising Cost Of EpiPen

Although epinephrine does not cost much, the self-injectable pen is relatively expensive. A two pack EpiPen now costs about $600. The device, however, was not always this costly. The price was only about $100 in 2008, but this has since increased by more than 450 percent.

Mylan pharmaceutical, the company behind the product, said that EpiPen's increasing prices "reflect important product features and the value the product provides."

The company also said that it has made significant improvements to the device over the past years albeit Allergy & Asthma Network medical director Purvi Parikh said that neither the device nor the medicine it uses changed in recent years.

Mylan's virtual monopoly, however, could be behind the price increase as the company has strategically ensured doctors and families with allergies become familiar with its product. Pediatric allergist Robert Wood from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said that the EpiPen brand has become like Kleenex for doctors who write prescriptions.

Are There Cheaper Alternatives?

While EpiPen is the leading name when it comes to allergy treatment, there are other cheaper alternatives for those who struggle with the cost of the device.

EpiPen is not the only epinephrine injector available on the market. Adrenaclick (epinephrine auto-injector) offers a cheaper option. At $142 when purchased using coupon from GoodRx at Walmart and Sam's Club, this device has the same drug used by EpiPen.

Some allergy sufferers have also turned to the DIY syringe method. Experts, however, warned that this method of using manual syringes and personally buying vials of epinephrine to fill them, is more complicated and patients may end up getting too much of the anti-allergy drug.

Those who want to use this though may seek to be trained by a doctor or pharmacist to learn how to inject the drug quickly and accurately during an emergency.

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