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Cost Jumps Nearly 500-Percent For Life-Saving EpiPens

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The costs are dramatically rising for a life-saving drug millions of people with severe allergies depend on.

For 1 in 13 kids in the U.S., the risk of allergic reactions lurks around every kitchen pantry. But the cost of the life-saving drug to buy previous minutes has jumped nearly 500 percent.

For the Henegar family, EpiPens have become part of daily life.

"It's just a fear that we live in kind of all the time. Every time we leave the house... do you have your EpiPen?" said Justin Henegar, father.

Two of their six kids, Cora and Ellie, have severe allergies. Each of their EpiPen fanny packs holds a life-saving dose of the drug.

Epinepherine slows down an allergic reaction and buys precious minutes to get to a hospital.

"So it's always good to have it with me," Ellie said.

But Ellie and Cora's emergency medication costs a lot more these days. Six years ago, a two-pack ran about $100. Now, that same pack can cost about $600 at the pharmacy.

Many doctors tell parents that school-age kids need three EpiPens -- one for school, one for home and one to carry around -- but some parents tell doctors they can't afford it.

"It is a tough decision to make when you're caught between financial and possible health risk," said Dr. Anthony Nguyen, with the Allergy and Asthma Center in Towson.

Dr. Nguyen says there aren't many other options since a competing drug was recalled years ago. And with a virtual monopoly by the drug's maker, Mylan, about $300 a dose at the pharmacy puts parents in a bind.

"I tell them at least have one, at least just get one twin pack," Dr. Nguyen said.

For the Henegars, it means tightening the budget for a drug their daughters may one day desperately need.

In a statement, Mylan tells CBS News that the price hike is due to "a significant investment to support the device over the years."

Mylan does offer coupons to patients who meet certain financial criteria.

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