EpiPen competitor Auvi-Q is back on the market, after a voluntary recall in October 2015 due to “potential inaccurate dosage delivery.”
This is good news for the competitive landscape of the epinephrine autoinjector (the technical name for drug delivery devices like the EpiPen) market, especially after CVS announced a price cut for another competitor, Adrenaclick.
What is not such good news is the new list price for Auvi-Q: $4,500.
According to Ars Technica, the price of a two-pack of Auvi-Q largely tracked with Mylan’s increases: $200 at initial release, $500 by the time it was recalled.
Auvi-Q maker Kaleo is quick to assure the public that the vast majority of patients won’t pay that price – it will be covered by insurance for those who have it and offered for free to people with no insurance whose household income is less than $100,000. However, high list prices for drugs are paid by the insurance companies – and those costs will end up being passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums, co-pays, and other costs.
Kaleo’s strategy may not be effective, as insurance companies may not want to bear the high cost of the device and would rather cover the EpiPen. In addition, the biggest obstacle to widespread distribution of EpiPen competitors still stands – the fact that if a prescription is written for EpiPen, then pharmacists cannot substitute an alternative. To get Auvi-Q or Adrenaclick, the prescription must be written specifically for that medication.
Richard Evans, an analyst for Sector and Sovereign who monitors the pharmaceutical industry, told Forbes:
“It’s a very weak position. If I’m the payer I’m just going to block the product, I’m not going to pay for it. If you’re going to give it away, fine, knock yourself out. What is my motive to pay $4,500, or any derivative of $4,500?”