The company behind the $608 EpiPen announced this morning that it will begin making a less expensive generic version of the life-saving drug after criticism from patients and politicians last week. The new product will cost $300 for a twin pack, half the current price of the EpiPen, the Associated Press reports.
The EpiPen contains epinephrine, which treats severe allergic reactions to food, insect bites, stings, medication, and other allergens. The pens are single-use and expire after one year. People with severe allergies often need to keep EpiPen packs in their homes, schools, or offices in case of emergency.
Last week the company said it would expand programs to provide discounts to some customers. But the politicians and people who need the medication said the price hike–from around $100 in 2007 to the current $608 price tag–is unacceptable.
Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and other legislators wrote to Mylan CEO Heather Bresch last week demanding an explanation for the increases in price.
"Our decision to launch a generic alternative to EpiPen® is an extraordinary commercial response," Bresch wrote in a statement today, before going on to blame pharmaceutical and insurance companies. "However, because of the complexity and opaqueness of today's branded pharmaceutical supply chain and the increased shifting of costs to patients as a result of high deductible health plans, we determined that bypassing the brand system in this case and offering an additional alternative was the best option."
While there is currently no direct competitor to the EpiPen on the market, the AP notes that today's move from the company comes as other drug makers have begun to indicate that they might be able to produce alternatives–in particular, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a company which said it may be able to produce a similar product costing around $100 within the next couple of months.