Kaiser Health News
Even as the cost of EpiPens dramatically rose, so too did the number of prescriptions written for patients in Medicare, sending spending by the program skyrocketing nearly 1,100 percent from 2007 to 2014, a new report shows.
During the same period, the total number of Medicare beneficiaries using EpiPens climbed 164 percent, from nearly 80,000 users in 2007 to more than 211,000 in 2014, according to the analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
While the report does not delve into what’s behind the increase, factors could include increased awareness among people with allergies, marketing efforts and access to insurance coverage.
The abrupt rise is notable because many people think that life-threatening allergies are less common among the elderly. In addition, epinephrine — the active ingredient in EpiPens — can pose greater risks to older adults. Food and Drug Administration labeling urges caution when prescribing to this age group.
“That level of increase gives me pause,” said Martha Twaddle, senior medical officer for Illinois at Aspire Health, which provides home-based supportive care for people with serious illness. She did not work on the study. Epinephrine — the active ingredient in EpiPens — can cause side effects including chest pain, rapid increase in blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms, which could be fatal, for people with certain medical conditions, including heart disease.
The foundation study comes amid ongoing scrutiny — including congressional testimony Wednesday by Mylan CEO Heather Bresch — over EpiPen price increases. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.) [Read more…]