House health committee passes EpiPen accessibility bill

FILE - In this July 8, 2016, file photo, a pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Sacramento, Calif. Mylan has started selling a generic version of its emergency allergy treatment EpiPen at half the price of the branded option, the cost of which drew national scorn and attracted Congressional inquiries. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

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FILE - In this July 8, 2016, file photo, a pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Sacramento, Calif. Mylan has started selling a generic version of its emergency allergy treatment EpiPen at half the price of the branded option, the cost of which drew national scorn and attracted Congressional inquiries. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

A House bill aimed at making cheaper life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors more accessible passed out of the health committee today.

House Bill 101 was introduced in February by Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Twp., and was supported by pharmacy groups.

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.

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.

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

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.

"It's really just giving the pharmacist the ability to provide a cheaper generic option for epinephrine for a patient," said state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., a member of the health committee. "One company shouldn't have a monopoly over providing a life-saving drug."

Now that the committee has passed the bill, it’s up to the full House to take it up for a vote.

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