“Here, try this.” A friend handed me the latest health bar.
“Eh, no thank you, I’m allergic to nuts,” I said.
“Oh, it’s okay. You have your EpiPen on you, right?” she asked.
Well, no, it doesn’t work that way.
The nibble of a peanut butter cookie crumb left me spilling my three-year old stomach’s contents all over my Blue’s Clues overalls and sparkly sneakers. After repeating incidents, my mom took me to the doctor to confirm her suspicions.
Multiple pricks and prods of needles in my back led to the diagnosis of a severe peanut and tree nut allergy.
As I started kindergarten, I brought with me not only my 96 pack of Crayola Crayons and kitten folders, but a lime green EpiPen Jr. My mother gave me a set of strict instructions with it:
“Don’t share your food.”
“Wash your hands before you eat.”
“Make sure to sit at the peanut free table.”
My parents made sure to meet with my future teacher and the school nurse at Wheeler Elementary to discuss my transition into the new social sphere, necessary safety precautions, and dietary adjustments. During this meeting I was introduced to my future classmate, Will Morris. To avoid a cupcake-induced reaction, we became “birthday treat buddies.”
We kept a stash of snacks in the classroom for birthday celebrations, holidays, and classroom game rewards.
We were prepared.
Even with set defenses, slips still happen. Too often I’ve run into situations such as a chocolate shake concealing the horrors of a crushed Snickers bar on the bottom. A tasty drink that was once safe suddenly became a health concern.
Allergens can’t always be avoided, which is when an EpiPen is most important.
Without the medicine, Will and I could both be dead.
In the event of someone experiencing wheezing, swelling, and hives, the reaction can be calmed with one dollar worth of epinephrine, delivered straight from an EpiPen.
However, the price tag reveals $600.
Mylan, the company that produces EpiPens, just raised its CEO’s salary to almost 19 million dollars, while charging families $600 for a pack of two EpiPens. But many families desire multiple packs to feel safe. A 2010 study by Children’s Hospital Boston concluded children should carry two EpiPens as opposed to one, because one dosage of epinephrine may not be enough to calm a reaction.
The company has offered coupons, generics, and the Internet has buzzed with different ways to cut the price per pack, but people aren’t satisfied.
Forget the coupons and the back-alley purchases, those should not be necessary. EpiPens should be a lower price for all people. They’ve been part of mine and other people’s safety plan far too long to change to another less reliable treatment.
In a recent phone interview, USave Pharmacist Wanda Stumpss said because of high insurance deductibles, people are noticing more of the medication’s full price. In the past, they would pay at most their $20 to $50 copay and not see the high receipt.
I am fortunate enough to be able to afford at least one pack of EpiPens with my parent’s insurance, but what about the other kindergartners and rising college freshman? What about the people just about to explore the world?
A costly medicine could hold them back.
FARE ( Food Allergy Research & Education) reports 15 million Americans have a food allergy. Without proper medication, those 15 million people could die.
That’s less smiles, laughs, and hugs.
All at result from a price tag.
It’s time medical companies remember their purpose: to help people. There should not be a price put on the value of saving a life.