Soaring EpiPen prices hit pet owners in the pocketbook, too

EpiPen
The soaring prices of EpiPen and other drugs are affecting pet owners.

When the price of Mylan’s drug that’s widely used to treat life-threatening allergies, EpiPen, skyrocketed to $500 per vial a few months back, it wasn’t just parents and patients who were affected. Pet owners felt the pain, too, especially because the vast majority of them don’t carry health insurance for their animals.

Take, for example, Los Angeles resident Art Weber. His dog, Whitney, is allergic to bee stings, so he and his wife always have a two-pack of EpiPens on hand. “We have all the concerns that everyone else has,” Weber told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re going to do whatever we have to do to take care of her.” Although the dog has only been stung once, the Webers have to buy fresh EpiPens each year just in case.

It’s not just EpiPen that’s creating cost concerns for pet owners. Barry Davis, who also lives in Los Angeles, gives his Lab generic phenobarbital to control epileptic seizures. A two-month supply of the pills, which is also used by people, recently jumped in price from $85 to $140, he told the paper. “The pharmaceutical industry just seems to pull prices out of the air,” Davis said.

Pet owners are shelling out more for medications than ever before, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Even before the EpiPen controversy exploded, drug spending for animals was on the rise, with the total dollars spent on over-the-counter drugs and related supplies jumping 4% in 2015 to $14.3 billion. Spending on veterinary care was $15.4 billion last year, and overall pet-related expenditures surpassed $60 billion for the first time. The APPA projects that in 2016, spending on dogs and cats will approach $63 billion.

Meanwhile, pet insurance is still a relatively untapped market. Despite an expanding menu of insurance offerings for pet owners, only about 1.6 million dogs and cats are insured, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. That means only about 1% of pet owners are opting for insurance.

Veterinarians are cognizant of the cost pressures that pet owners face. Joe Kinnarney, a North Carolina veterinarian and former president of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, told the LA Times that the cost of pet-specific medications tends to rise along with inflation and that most of the affordability challenge is limited to drugs that are also marketed for people. Another recent example of that is doxycycline hyclate, an antibiotic that cost $20 a bottle in late 2013 but 6 months later was selling for $1,849.

Kinnarney’s advice for pet owners? Ask the vet for a written prescription and then shop it around to several pharmacies.

- read more at the LA Times

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