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Rising Prices Make EpiPens A Costly Necessity For Families With Severe Food Allergies

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Nearly one out of every thirteen children has a food allergy, and for many parents EpiPens are life savers.

However as CBS2's Vanita Nair explained, the cost of those pens has risen more than 480-percent in the last decade.

An EpiPen is never far away in the Henegar household, where dinner time is a cautious time.

Of the family's six children, two have severe food allergies -- 3-year-old Cora, and 7-year-old Ellie.

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

As a baby, Ellie's allergic reactions were so severe that hives covered her entire body. Her family has twice used the EpiPen to save her life.

"Her lips turned blue, she started swelling, she wasn't able to breathe," Lexi Henegar said.

Injectors have to be replaced when they expire.

The Henegars remember paying as little as $80 for them 5 or 6 years ago, before they switched to a high deductible health plan.

"We really noticed it in the past year, year-and-a-half when we went to go have it filled, it was $600," Lexi said.

In 2009, pharmacies paid slightly more than $100 for a 2-pack of EpiPens. The price has since skyrocketed to more than $600.

Bloomberg Senior Medical Reporter Robert Langreth said the manufacturer of the device, Mylan has had a virtual monopoly since its main competitor launched a recall last fall.

"The brand name EpiPen, it's like Kleenex to allergists," Langreth explained.

He said the company has remarketed the decades old device without making any significant changes since acquiring it in 2007.

In a statement Mylan told CBS news that the EpiPen's price "has changed over time to better reflect important product features and the value the product provides...we've made a significant investment to support the device over the past years."

The Henegars said its cause for concern.

"You know, prices are based on competition, and there's no competition," Henegar said.

The company offers coupons which have allowed many patients to pay nothing out of pocket.

The coupons are worth up to $100.

Families with high deductibles like the Henegars are still on the hook for the majority of the cost.

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