How to Get a Cheaper EpiPen (so you can travel more safely)

When my doctor says she’s writing me a prescription for “Prilosec,” she really writes out a prescription for omeprazole, the generic name for the drug.

The same isn’t true for the EpiPen, and this is usually true across the board.  Part of the reason for this is the Epipen isn’t a drug.  It’s a product that administers a drug.


So there’s no “generic name” for this drug.  And doctors just end up writing out “EpiPen”.

What results is a specific prescription that pharmacies fill specifically–with the EpiPen.

But if doctors wrote out a generic description of the product, pharmacies could fill the prescription with a cheaper product.  The thing is, doctors don’t always realize this is possible.

Consumer Reports reports (ha!):

In most states, to get the low-cost, EpiPen alternative, you can’t use a prescription for “EpiPen” from your doctor. That’s because pharmacists at your drugstore likely won’t be able to automatically substitute the low-cost version if your prescription is written for EpiPen. Instead, ask your doctor to write a prescription for an “epinephrine auto-injector” or “generic Adrenaclick.”

There’s a reason for doctors’ lack of knowledge about the alternatives (or how to write the prescription).  According to Consumer Reports, EpiPen did an intensive marketing campaign to get doctors used to writing EpiPen.

Luckily, there are twelve states that let you substitute the generic, even if the doctor wrote EpiPen, “including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Vermont, and Washington.”

If you aren’t in one of these states, try to get your doctor to write a generic description.  I know with something as important as an allergic reaction (and your life) there’s probably some skepticism around using a generic version of the EpiPen.  But if you aren’t filling your EpiPen because of the cost, this can save your life.

And you can never know when an allergic reaction will strike.  I had one hit me when traveling over the Pacific ocean from Hawaii to California.  Luckily, it wasn’t anaphylaxis and there was a doctor on board too–who I knew!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:  These epinephrine auto-injectors do not all operate the same.  Please do not assume a generic one operates exactly like the EpiPen and read all the instructions.

Also, if your pharmacy does not have the generic version in stock, they can usually order it for next day pick up.  But as more people find out about the generic version, supplies may become limited since the manufacturer is probably not used to filling this many prescriptions.  So I would get a prescription filled sooner than later.

How has the increase in EpiPen cost affected you?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. This is not their fault its the system that creates the problem. Employers sack their employees with insurance plans now with huge deductibles thus before insurance actually works you have to pay into the system like 4 k then insurance pays.

  2. Your pharmacist may also be able to call the doctor and get it approved for them to substitute another brand for the epi-pen.
    This is why I like states that require it to be the actual pharmacist who hands you the prescription when it’s filled. Then you can easily ask them questions and they are more likely to give you information that you need about the drug. I know it seems a bit like it’s just a way that pharmacists have lobbied to get themselves more job security, but I’ve gotten way more useful information in Iowa and Wisconsin when it was the pharmacist that hands me the drug, than I have here in IL where a pharm tech or assistant checks you out. They sometimes ask if you have any questions for the pharmacist, but I almost always say no, because I think I understand what to do, and the one time I did want to ask the pharmacist some questions I had to wait a really long time for them to come over.

  3. Here is another idea you don’t hear about. Many years ago I used to carry vials of epinephrine and a syringe and administer it myself if needed. Not too different than administering insulin (other than the injection site, of course) and I only had one problem with a TSA agent who didn’t understand nut allergies but an understanding supervisor explained the Rx to him and then no problem.

    Of course not everyone will be able to administer this themselves but with practice and training this can be much cheaper than getting an auto injector system.

  4. Some news which might help to the financial burden: EpiPenIns, a membership based, insurance like set-up, has launched the website – Clearly, born out of frustration as well as passion, they offer a replacement and/or compensation for used EpiPens. They even offer an ´out of date´ replacement which is one of the biggest financial issues for anybody.

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