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Allergy Today: From Mark's Desk March 2022

Welcome to Allergy Today. Please help us raise allergy awareness by sharing your free e-newsletter with others every time you receive your copy.

I suspect the start of this year has not been what we were hoping for at the end of 2021.Mark Dixon-490There does seem to be more ‘unknowns’ in our lives than in any other time in recent memory at Allergy NZ. I won’t repeat them here, but I don’t think any of us are unaffected by either world or local circumstances at the moment. 

It is challenging to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and Allergy NZ will not attempt to do that. We are treating it as a time to double-down on our efforts to support those in our allergy community who were already doing it tough.

We have several exciting projects on the go, or are in the final planning stages, that are going to achieve that!
 

FundaPen2

With real satisfaction, I can report that our second FundaPen campaign has once again been very well received by both the allergy community, and the medical professionals who care for them.

This time, our FundaPen2 campaign has been made possible thanks to a generous $350,000 donation from Pub Charity to Allergy New Zealand. We will purchase 3,355 EpiPen® auto-injectors from Queenstown Pharmacy, which they will distribute to patients upon receipt of a prescription from their prescriber.

The FundaPen2 initiative follows the first campaign in 2019, which saw nearly 3000 New Zealanders receive a free EpiPen® (adrenaline autoinjectors).

As most of you know, life-saving EpiPens® last only 12 months, are not currently funded by PHARMAC, and can cost between $120 and $350 each. In the past 17 years, Allergy New Zealand has made eight submissions to have EpiPen® auto-injectors publicly funded through PHARMAC.

Pub Charity CEO Martin Cheer said, “Pub Charity is proud to support the FundaPen2 initiative. We know from past experience, what a positive contribution it can make to the lives of people with severe allergies, particularly those on low incomes”.

The return of FundaPen2 will help address a significant need for New Zealanders at risk of anaphylaxis, whose families/whānau struggle to buy an EpiPen®.

In Australia, people who are at risk of anaphylaxis, are now eligible for two funded adrenaline auto-injectors each year. In this country, none are funded, and the speed at which the free EpiPens were taken up in our first FundaPen campaign, demonstrated to us that there was significant unmet need.   

As a result of feedback from recipients of the 2019/20 campaign and prescribers, we have also significantly simplified the process.
 

How do I get a free Epipen®?

If you, or your child, have been diagnosed as being at risk of anaphylaxis, or have been recommended to carry an adrenaline auto-injector in the past, please book an appointment with your prescriber as soon as possible.

Make them aware of the current FundaPen2 campaign currently being run by Allergy NZ.

Most should be aware because we messaged their membership organisations (PHOs) before Christmas last year and again in mid-January, before the launch in early February this year. If they are unaware, please ask them to email primarycare@allergy.org.nz as soon as possible.

If they assess that you should carry an Epipen® with you, they will send your prescription to Queenstown Pharmacy, who will courier your Epipen to your postal address within 10 days.

Once the funding is exhausted, and the 3,355 FundaPens have been given out, normal protocols will apply.

At time of publishing, more than 1000 Epipens had been prescribed in 6 weeks under our FundaPen2 campaign, so please make that appointment today!
 

Pharmac Shift, Seismic?

After our initial FundaPen campaign wrapped up in 2020, it was pleasing to see Health Minister Andrew Little commenting on the television news that the lack of public funding for adrenaline auto-injectors was something that was personal to him and that the Government could do something about it.

Allergy NZ wrote to Andrew Little the day after that broadcast and thanked him for his understanding and support, while of course noting that Pharmac was where the change needed to happen.

It was exciting then to hear that Pharmac, for the first time in its history, was issuing a public tender for adrenaline auto-injectors in 150mg, 300mg and 500mg sizes.

That tender closed on 16 December 2021 and we continue to hold our breath awaiting news of Pharmac’s progress.

We hope the current success of FundaPen2 will again serve to remind the Minister and Pharmac of the massive positive impact their review of adrenaline auto-injector funding could have.
 

A New Partner - Carpet Court

Most of you will be familiar with the national carpet manufacturer, Carpet Court. The company is committed to improving and sustaining the health of our homes and they have been actively developing carpet ranges with that goal in mind. Their national team of store owners and staff have noted a rise in queries from people about products that can reduce the allergen load in their homes and work places.

So, I’m thrilled to announce that we have recently agreed a support partnership with them. They join our invested team of sponsors who recognise the need for actively supporting a better quality of life for Kiwis living with allergies.

Please also note that their exclusive underlay supplier is none other than Dunlop Flooring, a long-time supporter of Allergy NZ, and the allergy community we represent.

We’ll be sharing more news about how these partners can make a positive difference to the allergen load in your homes in future issues of Allergy Today.


Easter and the Chocolate Tsunami

It’s that time of year again where we need to be aware and respectful of people in our communities who are allergic to cows’ milk and therefore the food products that use it.

With stores awash in tin foil and chocolate shortly, we are mindful that it is a bit of minefield out there, especially for parents of children living with dairy allergies.

Because of unique challenges, the cleaning and removal of residual milk chocolate on production lines is difficult to achieve. The result can be that some dark chocolate products have milk in them that is more than a trace. Levels may be higher at the beginning of a milk-to-dark production changeover and reduce over time as the production continues.

In recognition of this, and to ensure the best protection for consumers with a milk allergy, several chocolate manufacturers in Australia and New Zealand have changed their labels to list milk allergens in the ingredient declaration. Typically, in these cases, ‘milk’ will be listed as the last ingredient, even though milk is not an intentionally-added ingredient.

Allergy New Zealand supports this industry initiative to ensure the best protection for consumers with a cow’s milk allergy. So, please keep reading those labels!
 

Allergy Awareness Week

We have a very exciting Allergy Awareness Week (AAW) planned this year from 8 to 14 May.

We are lucky to have a wonderful group of very enthusiastic allergy volunteers coordinating the week alongside two of our Board members, Kristen and Hemant. They are creating fresh school resources and activities for all school children to learn more about how they can support and include their mates who live with allergies.

If you’re a parent interested in contributing to allergy awareness during AAW, please contact your school now and encourage them to include Allergy Awareness Week in their May 2022 school planning.

We will have more details on both our Facebook page and website shortly, and our next issue of Allergy Today will include a guide to raise awareness of allergies in your local communities and networks.

Our Allergy NZ offices are currently closed as we try to dry them out following the deluge on Sunday night in Auckland. One of the positives to come out of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic is that we are all accustomed to working remotely and our support and education services continue without interruption.

Please remember to take care and respect others’ unseen health conditions as our world starts to free up a little. Anxiety is running at an all-time high in all communities, so it’s a good time to practise holding back, taking a breath and looking for opportunities to support others.

Thanks again for taking the time to keep up with our allergy news.

Mark Dixon,
CEO Allergy NZ