EpiPen price hike hitting parents hard - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

EpiPen price hike hitting parents hard

Outrage is growing over the price surge of EpiPens, affecting many parents of children with severe allergies in Southwest Louisiana. (Source: KPLC) Outrage is growing over the price surge of EpiPens, affecting many parents of children with severe allergies in Southwest Louisiana. (Source: KPLC)

Outrage is growing over the soaring price of EpiPens, a life-saving medication used in the event of a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

Thursday, drug company Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, says it will make the medicine more affordable after a 400 percent price increase since 2009.  But for parents in Southwest Louisiana, they have already had to shell out several hundred dollars for their children's EpiPens as a new school year began earlier this month.

At Prien Lake Elementary in Lake Charles, Megan Foreman is the school nurse.  At home, she is the mother of a son with a nut allergy.

"We've never had to use an EpiPen," she said, "but we've had a severe reaction.  He was accidentally given a peanut butter cookie and just severe vomiting."

Foreman sends a pack of EpiPens to school with her son each school year.
When she went to purchase a new pair a few weeks ago (they expire after a year), she had no idea the cost had gone from $400 last year to $600 this summer.  

"I was shocked at the cost hike, so I just left it at the pharmacy and said I'll be back right before school starts, because I wasn't prepared for that cost," said Foreman.

A generic of an epinephrine injector called Adrenaclick was found for Foreman, and she was able to purchase it for half the price of EpiPens.

"The difference between the two is how you use them," she said.  "The canisters are a little different, this one you have to pull two caps off before you use it.  This one, you pull one blue cap off."

For nurses like Foreman and Calcasieu Parish Public Schools nursing coordinator, Ginger Pearson, they have seen the rise in students with food allergies, requiring EpiPens.   So much so, the parish now has an Anaphylactic Reaction Protocol.

"If a student is exhibiting signs of anaphalactic reaction, number one, we call 9-1-1," said Pearson.  "We stay with the child, call the parent, we have CPR-certified employees standing by, elevate the legs, and keep the airway open."

As it stands, Louisiana does not have a law mandating every school have EpiPens for the general student population.  Each district has the option of opting in or out with their own policies.

"We are eventually going to move toward stocking epinephrine in the schools," said Pearson.  "Our parish is a large parish, so it's going to take some time to get that in place."

Calcasieu is the fifth largest school system in the state and the cost of stocking epinephrine in schools would come with a huge price tag and increased training.  Still, it is something the administration is working toward adding and it would certainly become a quicker reality without soaring drug prices.

But for parents like Foreman, there is not a choice about waiting.

"It has to be done," she said.  "It could save his life."

In this week's announcement Mylan, they said they will provide an instant savings card worth $300 to patients with high out-of-pocket costs.  They will also expand the group eligible for financial assistance.

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