Governor JB Pritzker signed a first of its kind law that requires insurance companies to cover the cost of medically necessary epinephrine injectors—commonly known by the brand name EpiPens—for Illinois residents 18 years old or younger with severe allergies.
The law, which goes into effect on January 1, passed 51-0 in the Illinois Senate and 92-0 in the House. Apparently, voting against getting medicine to kids who could die from allergic reactions is a bridge too far for even the most cynical politicians.
In Illinois, 12 percent of children have life-threatening allergies, according to Dr. Dar Siri, Medical Director and owner of Midwest Allergy Sinus Asthma.
This new requirement couldn’t come at a better time (besides, well, any time before now). Pharmaceutical company Mylan bought the EpiPen patent from Merck in 2007 when the wholesale price was $56.64. By 2016, they had raised it to well over $600.
At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first generic version of the EpiPen one year ago today, with the hope that a competitor might force prices down.
That hasn’t happened to the extent that one might have hoped.
Teva set the price of its generic at $300—hardly affordable, though definitely cheaper than the Mylan option—but as of January it was only available in “limited quantities.”
The bumpy rollout isn’t exactly a surprise. Teva is currently fighting a lawsuit from 44 states accusing it of conspiring with supposed competitors to keep prices artificially high. That suit was filed in May, just a couple of weeks before Teva settled with the state of Oklahoma in a case concerning its role in fomenting the opioid crisis.
The Illinois law takes the worry away from parents and kids who have severe allergies and puts it in the hands of insurance companies who now bear the responsibility of paying for the lifesaving treatment.