EpiPen alternative costs pennies in Mexico - Brownsville Herald: News

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EpiPen alternative costs pennies in Mexico

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Posted: Saturday, September 3, 2016 10:05 pm

McALLEN — A life-saving medication that costs more than $600 is the United States is only a few cents in Mexico.

The EpiPen’s controversial price hike from about $100 to more than $600 in just a few years is drawing many Rio GrandeValley residents to seek relief in Mexico, where medication is easily accessible.

Nuevo Progreso is a Mexican medical destination, with tourists from near and far making the trip to the tiny border town. An array of street promoters greets tourists as they enter the country, promoting anything from Viagra to Xanax to Lipitor.

However, the EpiPen, which is used to treat extreme and possibly fatal allergic reactions, is highly sought there but is not available.

“They were thinking of bringing it to Mexico, but it’s possible that because of the cost, they couldn’t bring it,” Dr. Noel Rodriguez said. “It’s very expensive.”

Rodriguez is an allergist in Matamoros, Mexico. He is a distinguished doctor in both Mexico and the United States, and he has been in the field for more than 28 years. He met with the medical director of the EpiPen maker in 2011, when he was president of the MexicanCollege of Allergy, Asthma and Pediatric Immunology.

Mexico has strict restrictions on epinephrine, the main ingredient in EpiPens, Rodriguez said. It is only sold to hospitals, clinics and specialists like himself.

“If you go to the pharmacy, they won’t sell it to you,” he said.

Less than three percent of Rodriguez’s patients suffer from extreme allergies, but he still is able to have medication handy. For Rodriguez, a box with 50 vials of epinephrine costs him $250 pesos — or the equivalent of 25 cents per vial.

“To us, it is very abusive on behalf of pharmaceuticals and health insurances companies to sell two vials at 600 dollars — seeing as how inexpensive the vial actually is,” he said. “And it’s something that can save a person’s life.”

A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com

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