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Ohio House passes EpiPen access bill

The House today unanimously approved a bill aimed at making cheaper life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors more accessible.

House Bill 101 was introduced in February by Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Twp., and was supported by pharmacy groups. It was passed by the health committee last week and was approved by the full House 93 to zero.

The bill would allow pharmacists to offer patients a cheaper or generic alternative to the brand name EpiPen, unless that brand is mandated by their physician. It now must go to the Ohio Senate.

“This bill will ensure patients receive epinephrine at the best available price and increases access to a life-saving medication,” Merrin said. “It’s a huge win for patients.”

Local representatives Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., and Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, are members of the health committee that voted for the bill.

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“I am glad the House passed and I was able to co-sponsor the Epinephrine Accessibility Act,” Antani said. “This is a common sense bill to empower the free market to give more affordable access to this life-saving medication.”

READ MORE: Groups with Mylan ties fighting Ohio EpiPen bill

Proponents say the change would lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers who need to have the injectors on hand in case of a severe allergy emergency.

But several patient advocacy groups opposed the bill, citing safety concerns. They argued that each device works differently, and patients might not know how to properly use a device swapped out by a pharmacist.

Those groups take money from EpiPen’s manufacturer Mylan. The company also submitted a letter in opposition to the bill.

Merrin called the groups “out-of-state interests that are a prop and a puppet for Mylan pharmaceuticals.”

EpiPens currently dominate the market thanks in part to laws that restrict pharmacists from substituting alternative injectors. The cost of EpiPens have enraged some consumers, who complain they have little choice but to pay as much as $600 for a two-pack of the life-saving drug.

On Tuesday, Maine’s Republican governor complained about the cost of EpiPens on a radio call-in show, saying it’s cheaper for addicts to get Narcan than it is for parents to secure life-saving allergy medications for their children.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is pushing a bill that would fine governments for not charging repeated overdose victims for the cost of their treatment with Narcan.

READ MORE: Governor says it’s unfair that Narcan is free but EpiPens aren’t

Another part of the Ohio bill is intended to save consumers money by not requiring them return to their doctor’s office every year to renew an existing prescription. It also would allow public places like restaurants and colleges to more easily stock the drugs for use in emergencies. Currently those entities are allowed to purchase non-patient-specific injectors, but only with a prescription.

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