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Intermountain, University of Utah drop EpiPen for cheaper alternative

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah clinicians will no longer be using the EpiPen.

The life-saving injection device made national headlines in August after drugmaker Mylan raised the out-of-pocket price to $300 per pen. Many patients and health care professionals decried the price, pointing out that epinephrine itself is one of the oldest and cheapest drugs around.

Now the U. will join Intermountain Healthcare in eschewing EpiPens in favor of "epi-kits."

Erin Fox, pharmacist and director of drug information services at the U., said the kits cost about $10 each. By replacing EpiPens with the cheaper epi-kits, the health system will save $35,000, Fox said.

"It's not earth-shattering in the amount we're going to save. … But this is exactly the type of project we work on all the time, and these little projects add up," she said.

The kit contains a vial of epinephrine, two syringes, two needles and an alcohol wipe.

The epi-kit is only for use by health care professionals who are skilled in administering medication and know how much of the drug to give.

One of the innovations of the EpiPen is the auto-injector, which delivers a precise amount of medication in a device designed to be safe and easy for laypeople to use, particularly in an emergency.

However, experts have criticized Mylan, saying the $600 price tag for two EpiPens is not justified given how cheap epinephrine is.

Intermountain Pharmacy Services also uses hospital-assembled epi-kits instead of EpiPens, according to a spokesman for the health system.

Fox said the U. has been working on the epi-kit for a year, before the EpiPen price hikes made front-page news.

"It's more of a standardization project," she said. "Very few areas of our hospital were actually using EpiPens, but we didn't have a standard item that would look the same for everyone to use."

She also said she will be watching the program closely to see if there are any adverse effects or safety issues as a result of switching to epi-kits.

For patients looking for price relief on EpiPens, Fox said an authorized generic is slated to debut by the end of the year and that more competition is coming in early 2017.

"We should see those prices coming down for EpiPens," she said.

Contributing: Mary Richards