Auvi-Q: Return of the Cheaper, Better Epipen Alternative
Auvi-Q: Return of the Cheaper, Better Epipen Alternative
When I was growing up, my family had a reasonable rule: if you want to complain about something, then you need to provide a new workable solution.
I took this advice to heart. It helped teach me that if there is something you don’t like you don’t have to accept it… but you need to take a proactive approach to fixing it. Well, at least until I joined the military and learned that if you don’t like something, you have to accept it and if you try to change it you get smited down (joyous days, those were).
Today, I’m back in the mindset of changing what I don’t like and it has helped me get a lot more done for my allergy patients. Particularly with finding an Epipen alternative and combating the high Epipen prices.
I had written articles in the past on the outrageous Epipen prices and 7 tips/tricks to lowering Epipen cost (including a great story about getting a generic epipen). But these were tricks to get around something I could not change: the market dominance of Epipen.
But today I have some exciting news on the best epipen alternative:
Auvi-Q is coming back and should be cheaper than even the best Epipen prices!
Disclosure: I have no disclosures. I am writing this article as an allergist who tries to put the needs of my patients first. I have no stock in Auvi-Q, Epipen, or any other Epipen alternative. I want my patients to have the medications they need at the best possible price.
What is an Epipen?
Epipen is a name brand form of an epinephrine auto injector, a device designed to give you a shot of epinephrine to treat life-threatening allergy/anaphylaxis reactions.
But medical providers often say the word Epipen as a general term to mean epinephrine autoinjector (the same way you might say Kleenex to mean any tissue and not the name brand Kleenex). This does a disservice to our patients, who may think there is only one medication available to treat their anaphylaxis.
I have worked to change my habits and use the phrase ‘epinephrine autoinjector’ because all you need to treat anaphylaxis is some device that can deliver an injection of epinephrine. There is nothing special about Epipen (the brand) over any other epinephrine autoinjector provided they can deliver the correct medication through a needle into your body.
Because of this, every single Epipen alternative/epinephrine auto injector on market is the same to deliver the life-saving epinephrine medication.
What is Auvi-Q?
Auvi-Q is a name brand form of another epinephrine auto injector that also gives you a shot of epinephrine. The major difference is the device itself talks to you and ‘walks you through’ the process. The audio coaching is a great feature of this Epipen alternative. Giving an epinephrine injection can be scary (and you’re already scared from having a potentially life-threatening reaction) so the step-by-step instructions are very helpful.
The device was also smaller than Epipen (and smaller than your phone!)
What happened to Auvi-Q?
In the fall of 2015, Auvi-Q did a voluntary recall of their products over a concern that the devices were not consistently delivering the correct dose of epinephrine. An epinephrine autoinjector has only one job: to deliver the correct dose of medication. If a product cannot do that, then it needs to leave the market. Auvi-Q made the right decision at the time and chose to re-invest in making the process safer and reproducible.
Fallout from the recall
In the wake of Auvi-Q’s removal from the market, Epipen (the brand) was the only major epinephrine autoinjector and they used that status to mark up the price of their products (although they had been doing that for years already).
This put many patients in a difficult position of being unable to afford their life-saving medication.
As an allergist, I tried to find ways around this including searching for the best Epipen alternative and finding as many cost saving tips as possible. But it has been a very difficult time for many of my patients.
New Auvi-Q Coming in 2017
As an allergist, I had heard rumors that Auvi-Q would be returning. I like the device (as did my patients) so this was exciting. It would also mean more market competition which should lower prices once again (if my economics teacher was right).
But I still had three questions before I was willing get excited:
- When would Auvi-Q be available?
- What would be Auvi-Q’s price?
- Is the new Auvi-Q a reliable device?
I can now report these answers to you.
When will Auvi-Q be available?
The latest update is that Auvi-Q will be available in the first half of 2017. I’m not sure of the exact date (yet) and will keep you updated, but even if it were at the end of the first half it should still be available in time for all your back-to-school epinephrine refills… which is a huge (and costly) time for a lot of my patients.
What would be Auvi-Q’s price?
I am excited for this part.
According to the company’s representative, the device is expected have low out of pocket costs for everyone!
Why do i think this will be cheaper than Epipen when there is an Epipen coupon that says $0 copay?
I made this distinction because Epipen “coupon” that claims $0 copay only applies IF you met your deductible and even then only covers up to $150. Since many people now have high deductible insurance and Epipen’s cost is about $600, their ‘$0 copay coupon’ is actually $450 copay coupon AFTER your deductible (which is more than Auvi-Q was before the recall!).
So while I don’t know the final pricing yet, low out of pocket costs will be much better than even the best Epipen deal for most of us.
Is the new Auvi-Q a reliable device?
Yes. Auvi-Q was re-acquired by the original founders at Kaleo Pharmaceuticals and with that acquisition came a new commitment to the product (and to my patients). Kaleo has revamped the production process into a safer and reliable system: an automated manufacturing process makes the new device with individually labeled parts and ‘over a hundred internal checks and balances.’
What I hear is ‘something something robots and computers.’
But it sounds like they have worked hard to make the new Auvi-Q a reliable device. And you can bet that every academic institution (and scientists at Epipen) will test and retesting this device to make sure it is safe.
I can’t comment on the long term reliability yet, but if I hear anything I will let you know (as will every news source out there, I would imagine).
What Do I Recommend?
As it stands now, I think Auvi-Q’s reintroduction back into the market is a good change that will help you and allergy patients everywhere. I will prescribe it as soon as it is available IF it is cheaper than Epipen because I am tired of my patients being gouged with high medication prices. If not, I will pick the least expensive epinephrine auto injector available for my patients (you can read here how I choose your medications).
If you have met your deductible and need an Epipen I would get it before your deductible resets. If not, I would consider waiting until Auvi-Q becomes available and then shop around to find the best Epipen alternative that works for you.
If you have questions, please email me and I’ll be happy to help. And share this with anyone you know anyone who needs an epinephrine autoinjector. This simple article could save them hundreds of dollars!