Caught in the Middle
Pharmacists are increasingly charged with the task of explaining drug price increases and health plan rules to patients
EpiPendamonium. EpiPendemic. EpiPanic. The popular press has had a field day with the public outcry over the growing gap between the price of EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injectors, Mylan) and the ability of patients, even insured patients, to pay. The furor over EpiPen pricing is simply the best publicized of many similar price hikes that have left patients unable to pay.
“Raising the EpiPen price to more than $600 is ridiculous,” said Jeremy Counts, PharmD, owner of Main Street Pharmacy in Blackburg, VA. “Like every other pharmacist in the country, I’m having patients come in every day asking ‘what can I do? I don’t have $600.”
Pharmacist in the Middle
“What gets missed in all the media frenzy is the pharmacists who are caught in the middle,” said Dorinda Martin, PharmD, who owns three Martins Compounding and Wellness Pharmacy locations in Austin, TX. “Parents aren’t just buying one box of EpiPens, they’re buying two or three or four boxes for each child who needs it. Depending on your health plan, you may be paying $10 or you may be paying full price. Somebody is making a good profit on EpiPens, but it isn’t the pharmacy. We just get to take patients’ totally justified anger and frustration over prices that nobody understands.”
Patients are particularly frustrated because there is no single answer for price increases.
Options, Not Solutions
Whatever the reason for a particular drug price hike, pharmacists have few good choices. PUTT, Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, has published a poster that details EpiPen pricing. Pharmacies can use the poster to help patients understand who is profiting, said Arizona pharmacy owner and PUTT president Teresa Stickler, PharmD. But understanding pricing doesn’t help patients afford it. Or believe it.