The pharmaceutical company Mylan says a generic version of its EpiPen anti-allergy device will be in pharmacies starting next week.
The company is introducing the generic at a price of $300 for a two-pack, half the cost of its brand-name cousin.
“This unprecedented action, along with the enhancements we made to our patient access programs, will help patients and provide substantial savings to payors,” the company said in a release Friday.
The epinephrine in the pens can stop an allergic reaction in its tracks. But in less than 10 years, the price for a two-pack of auto-injectors has risen from about $100 to more than $600.
Mylan decided to offer the generic even though it doesn’t have a strong competitor to the EpiPen because it was facing enormous criticism from consumers and members of Congress to lower the drug’s price.
The company first tried to offer discount coupons for the brand-name drug, but that didn’t quiet the criticism so the company moved ahead with its own, lower-priced version.
In its announcement, Mylan continued to blame the EpiPen price increases on insurance companies and the complex drug pricing system in the U.S. CEO Heather Bresch has repeatedly argued that it is harder for consumers to afford expensive medications because of high-deductible health plans and high copayments.
“Families will continue to face sticker shock for medications and may be forced to make difficult choices until the pharmaceutical pricing system is reformed to address the increasing shift of costs directly to consumers,” Bresch said in the company’s statement.
She made similar arguments when she testified to Congress in September.
Like the EpiPen, Auvi-Q injects a dose of epinephrine into the thigh of a person experiencing a severe allergic reaction.
The device was pulled from the market by the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi last year after the company said it had received a handful of reports that the device didn’t reliably deliver the right dose of epinephrine.
Kaleo, which invented the Auvi-Q device, bought the rights back from Sanofi and will market the device as an EpiPen competitor.
Whether or not Mylan’s generic calms consumers and lawmakers, the company’s launch of it may be a shrewd business decision.
By bringing a generic to the market now, Mylan could preemptively steal some market share from Teva Pharmaceuticals, which is developing its own generic EpiPen. That device is expected to be approved in 2017.