A spike in the cost of life-saving EpiPens has rocked families across southern Colorado. Prices for the tools used in the event of an allergic reaction have now hit an all-time high.
"I'm not paying $500 for a prescription that last year didn't cost me anything," EpiPen customer Nicole Smith said.
Smith has relied on EpiPens for her son's food allergies for 19 years now, and she said she's never seen the cost this high.
"I was shocked and I think the pharmacist almost felt apologetic," Smith said. "He said, 'You're not the first person who has said this to me.'"
Eight years ago, the cost of the auto-injection tool was closer to $100. Today, the price has spiked to more than $600.
"EpiPen basically right now though has a monopoly, so they can charge whatever they want because really there is nothing else in the market right now," Smith said.
Pharmacist Barry Patterson said he noticed this issue after EpiPen competitors were taken off the shelves.
"I think one of the reasons we're seeing it go up even more is... a product called Auvi-Q was a generic version of the EpiPen, and that's no longer on the market due to a recall from last year," said Patterson, owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Colorado Springs.
In addition, Teva's generic version of the product failed to pass regulatory compliance, leaving EpiPen as the primary life-saving tool in case of an emergency allergic reaction.
"We're kind of in this funny timespan right now where we're waiting for some competition," Smith said. "But that may not be for another year -- maybe two years before any other competition comes out, because of course you want the product to work."
The price hike has placed a financial burden on families across the country.
"There's a lot of people who are scrimping and saving and not purchasing food in order to purchase an EpiPen," Smith said.
"It's a very uncomfortable situation because we don't have control over that," Patterson said. "To sit there and talk about something you don't have control over and look at a mom or a dad really have concern in their eyes and their face, almost to the point where 'we can't afford this, what are we going to do?'"
News 5 learned that the company that makes the EpiPen has been giving themselves enormous raises. From 2007 to 2015, the CEO's salary has gone from just under $2.5 million dollars a year to nearly $19 million.
"They need to support why they are increasing the price and hopefully what they plan on doing with that money other than raise executives pay," Smith said.
Lawmakers across the country have started to speak out and call for an explanation of price increases from EpiPen's manufacturer.