Kaiser changes EpiPen prescription policy after complaints

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Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente is altering an EpiPen prescription policy after reportedly receiving complaints from patients, according to a CBS SF Bay Area investigation.

Here are four things to know:

1. CBS SF Bay Area reported Kaiser had been rationing EpiPens by half-filling patients' prescriptions, meaning they would receive one epinephrine syringe instead of the usual two syringes, as recommended and approved by the FDA. The agency recommends the medication include two syringes in case one backfires.

2. Kaiser patients also told the television station the health system had been charging them a second copayment when they came to pick up the second half of their prescription, the report states. Patient complaints led regulators to investigate Kaiser and its EpiPen prescription policy, according to the report.

3. In an Aug. 27 prepared statement, Kaiser said it would continue rationing the generic version of the medication, and in most cases, will only allow patients to obtain one epinephrine injection per prescription. Kaiser said the rationing stems from the nationwide shortage of the medication affecting patients in 45 states.

"At Kaiser Permanente, we are working to ensure supplies are available for the 94,000 patients among our 12 million members who need these devices. … Until supplies return to adequate levels, our pharmacies are dispensing one auto-injector pen at a time per patient. This practice is endorsed by our physician and pharmacist experts to preserve access to this lifesaving medication for all of our patients during this shortage.

"Over the last couple of years, we have all become accustomed to receiving the product as a two-pen set, and so we know it can create anxiety to receive only one new pen at a time. However, we are trying to avoid the far worse case: A patient getting no pen, because supplies are exhausted. In the midst of this serious shortage, we are doing our best to ensure everyone has access in an emergency. As supplies start to return to adequate levels, we will remove the one-pen limit."

4. While there may be a shortage of generic epinephrine injections, some argue name-brand medications, like Auvi-Q, are readily available. Kaiser told CBS SF Bay Area that kaléo, which manufactures Auvi-Q, charges the health system $5,000 per prescription, compared to the $200 per prescription its current provider charges. The health system said it does not prevent its physicians from prescribing Auvi-Q, but said patients must complete a form by mail through a specific pharmacy to obtain the medication.

"Auvi-Q has set this up to be a limited distribution drug that requires the patient to complete a form for access and be filled by mail through a specific pharmacy. Despite this, Kaiser Permanente does not have restrictions on our physicians prescribing Auvi-Q devices," Kaiser said in a statement to CBS SF Bay Area.

To access the full report, click here.

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