Has this ever happened to you? You head to the pharmacy to pick up your child’s most recent epinephrine prescription, take it home, and open it up to discover your new auto-injector expires in 8 months.
Frustrating, right? I don’t remember this being an issue a decade ago, but this is increasingly becoming a reality for food allergy parents and patients everywhere. Nobody likes to see an early expiration on their life-saving medications. Prescriptions are supposed to last a year, right?
Well, the good news is that there are some things you can do about it. What are they? Well, keep reading.
If you can remember to do so, the best way to deal with this problem is to head it off before it starts. When dropping off your prescription, specify that you want a 12 month or greater expiration. Tell them you’ll wait for them to order one, if necessary.*** They get shipments and reorders regularly, so this shouldn’t take very long.
Whether you remembered to request a good expiration at drop off or not, open the bag while you’re still at the pharmacy counter, preferably before you’ve paid any co-pay or money due. If the expiration is too soon, hand it back and politely but firmly request one that lasts 12 months plus. If they have one there, switching boxes and labels should only take a few minutes. If they say that’s the best they have, tell them you can come back after they reorder.*** Make it clear that you don’t intend to leave with medicine that expires too soon. Again, reordering is not something that should be a problem, and shouldn’t take more than a few days. If you didn’t open the bag until you got home, take it back to the pharmacy with everything it came with as soon as you are able, and make the same request as above.
If, however, you can’t make it back to the pharmacy, or if this happened to you two months ago, or if you get a pharmacist who insists that s/he can’t accommodate your request, never fear. You still may be able to squeeze a year or more out of your epinephrine.
I learned this from a pharmacist a few years ago. Your prescription itself is good for one year. Therefore, if you bring your expired epis back to the same pharmacy the month they expire, along with the original prescription papers (save and bring the original box with sticker on it too, just in case) then they may issue you a new one since your prescription is still valid.
I WANT TO STRESS THAT THIS WAS SUGGESTED AND HONORED BY ONE PHARMACY. I cannot guarantee that every pharmacy will honor it. I hope so, but it strikes me that we might be at the mercy of individual pharmacists on this one.
My suggestion is to check with the pharmacist at prescription time, if you can. Ask them if they will honor this tactic, and possibly ask for their answer in writing if you want extra security or if they seemed reluctant. If you weren’t able to check in advance, give it a shot anyway–you’ve got nothing to lose and several hundred dollars in savings to gain!
It remains to be seen whether anyone will have this problem with the Auvi-Q. They’ve pledged to work hard to always provide the best expiration, but when I asked, they also wanted to stress that commercially insured patients can “get multiple prescription per year with a $0 out-of-pocket cost. So, if for some reason they receive product with a shorter expiration date, ccommercially insured patients will be able to refill their prescriptions to replace the expiring product for $0.” So the AffordAbility program will not just be “one and done.”
It’s never fun to get an auto-injector that expires too soon. Don’t get upset with yourself if you forgot to practice what you learned here–you only fill these prescriptions once a year, if you’re lucky. It took me several years before I remembered to head this problem off every time. But with a little advance planning and negotiation skills, you can make sure that you get your money’s worth, every time.
***Only make this statement if you can afford to wait. Obviously if you’re filling your first-ever auto-injector, or if you are replacing a used one, you need protection right away. In that case, ask about the “bring it back when it expires” tactic, or promise to keep it in the box and ask them to order you a better one, and you’ll come back in a few days to trade it. Any auto-injector is better than none, and you want to have it on hand if you need it!