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Allergy Today News Bite: EpiPen® costs put children at risk

EpiPens-1-418-447Children with life-threatening allergies whose families cannot afford to pay for EpiPens® are at risk unless the auto-injectors are funded as part of a National Allergy Strategy.

Specialists are calling for a National Allergy Strategy that includes funding for EpiPen® auto-injectors.

Clinical Immunology and Allergy Group chair Dr Maia Brewerton said there was huge hardship for families living with allergies, particularly the $150 cost of the EpiPen®, which expires after 12 months.

Australia, which funds two EpiPens® per patient per year, also has a National Allergy Strategy to ensure equitable services. Such a national strategy was urgently needed in New Zealand, Dr Brewerton said.

“It is essential that health disparities seen amongst Māori and Pacific communities are addressed in the development of a National Allergy Strategy in New Zealand.”

Pharmac's director of operations Lisa Williams said the agency did fund adrenaline in an ampoule that could be used with a needle and syringe by people experiencing anaphylaxis.

The ampoules cost about $1 each.

“Only the EpiPen brand of adrenaline auto injector is currently registered in New Zealand, which is why the supplier, Mylan, is able to set a high price,” Ms Williams said.

Pharmac continued to talk with potential providers to reach agreement on price that would allow a registered adrenaline auto-injector to be funded, she said.

Allergy New Zealand chief executive Mark Dixon said Pharmac was being unrealistic.

“The chances of them finding a product that’s priced closer to what they are willing to pay is unlikely to ever happen.”

Pharmac’s own advisory committee had recommended funding EpiPens, but families had been waiting 15 years so far, the longest of any medicine under consideration, he said.

“People who can’t afford Epipens have to deal with snapping open glass vials of adrenalin, filling syringes and injecting themselves or their children deep into a muscle – a difficult ask in what’s already a stressful situation.”

Read more: Cost of EpiPens putting children at risk, specialists say

June 2019