NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The maker of the EpiPen is once again in hot water with Congress over alleged overcharging of Defense Department for its adrenaline injectors.

National outrage over the skyrocketing price of EpiPens has prompted people to look for cheaper alternatives.

EpiPens are filled with about $1 worth of a generic drug called epinephrine, or adrenaline, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported. The rest of the $600 cost of an EpiPen is the injection mechanism.

You can get a much cheaper, generic version of an EpiPen if your prescription is written the right way.

Eight-year-old Joshua Mandelbaum has a peanut allergy so severe that if he touches a peanut, he could die.

“His throat has swelled, his body has swelled, he has had hives from head to toe,” his mother Lianne Mandelbaum explained.

In addition to being extremely vigilant about what foods Josh gets near, the Mandelbaum always has an EpiPen with them, just in case.

“It could save my life one day,” Joshua said.

But the $500 price spike in EpiPens has hurt the wallets of families with life-threatening allergies.

“Some parents have said ‘I’m even looking at keeping an expired EpiPen,'” explained Mary Espiritu, who has a child with allergies.

That’s because many believe the EpiPen is the only option.

Turns out, it’s not.

The generic epinephrine auto injector has been on the market since 2013.

The cash price is as much as $430 cheaper than the EpiPen. It’s FDA approved for the same use and contains the exact same medicine.

Pharmacists and doctors say it’s as safe and effective as the EpiPen brand, Gomez reported. So why aren’t they prescribing it?

“There are many providers who think ‘I’ll write “EpiPen or generic equivalent”‘ not realizing that the pharmacist can’t substitute it,” explained Dr. Ronn Berrol, with Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, an Alta Bates affiliate.

In the Tri-State Area, only Connecticut allows pharmacists to make the substitution. In New York and New Jersey, the prescription has to read “epinephrine autoinjector” so that pharmacists can dispense Adrenaclick – or the prescription can say that brand name.

“Legally, we would have to fill it in as an EpiPen, unless we call a prescriber to change it,” explained Dr. Mohamad Jalloh of the American Pharmacists Association.

But many pharmacies don’t stock the Adrenaclick generic, so call ahead – they can order it.

Gomez suggested calling around to get the best price, since it can vary widely. The manufacturer also offers discount coupons as does the online prescription site GoodRx.com, which, according to Consumer Reports, can bring the price as low as $140 for a pack of two.

The key is preparation, Gomez reported. Talk to your doctor and pharmacy to get the right prescription, and then study how to work the generic injectors before there’s an emergency, because they differ somewhat from EpiPens.