Column: Stocking schools with Epi-Pens a sensible solution
Commentary by Dr. David Patterson
The escalating cost of Epi-Pens made by Mylan has been in the news recently, but there has been little discussion on policy changes to help families. Parents of my school-age patients are in a difficult position – either they risk their child’s health by not buying Epi-Pens for their child to have at school, or they in some cases pay more than $600 for a two-pack of Epi-Pens to have at their child’s school.
As an allergist who has taken care of these children for more than 20 years, I think there is a win-win solution which will keep children safe and save money for parents. I am proposing all schools in our state have stock Epi-Pens. In 2014 my colleagues and I guided legislation for auto-injectable stock epinephrine (Epi-Pen is the most common form of auto-injectable epinephrine in the U.S. market) through our state legislature. This legislation was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence as Senate Bill 245. This law allows schools to have stock epinephrine, it waves civil liability for providers who write for stock epinephrine and it also waives liability for nurses and trained lay people who administer epinephrine in schools. Although this was a win for students, practitioners and families, it does not require schools to have stock epinephrine to treat serious allergic reaction.
How will schools afford all these Epi-Pens? Mylan has a program which will give four free Epi-Pens to every school in our state each year if they have a valid prescription by a licensed health care provider. If our schools had stock Epi-Pens then children would not need to have their own Epi-Pens in schools and parents could save thousands of dollars each year. Additionally, children who do not have diagnosed food allergies but have a reaction at school would be covered by having stock epinephrine, in the form of Epi-Pens, available in every school in our state. I realize parents would still need to send their Epi-Pens from home with their child when they go on field trips, but while they were at school they would be covered by the stock Epi-Pens at the school.
When I speak to school nurses they tell me they have a drawer full of Epi-Pens at their school. When a child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction at school the last thing I want is a nurse or volunteer rummaging through a drawer of Epi-Pens to find the Epi-Pen for a particular child . This is a waste of precious time. They just need to administer an Epi-Pen and call 911. Additionally, my school nurse colleagues tell me they throw away most of these Epi-Pens at the end of the year because they are expired or close to expiring.
It’s time to take a sensible approach to Epi-Pens in schools. We can protect our children and save money at the same time if we require schools to have free stock epinephrine.
Dr. David Patterson is a Carmel resident and board certified allergist, internist and patient advocate at Academy Allergy and Sinus.