By: Senator DiZoglio
Hello Valley Patriot Readers,
The prevalence of life-threatening allergies among children is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that food allergies in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. It is estimated that currently 1 in 13 children has a food allergy, and more than 40 percent of those children have experienced a severe allergic reaction.
These are conditions that cause people to always be on alert regarding potential interactions with that allergen – to the point where some cannot even touch the surface of where certain foods were prepared.
Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis – and though there are eight food groups responsible for about 90 percent of allergic reactions, there are more than 170 different foods that have been reported to trigger an allergic reaction. Given the severity of anaphylaxis, we are fortunate to have a first line of treatment, epinephrine.
The first modern epinephrine auto-injector, however, EpiPen, has become the poster child for this nation’s drug-pricing problem, with prices spiking more than 500 percent over a decade. One 2016 report found that the price of an EpiPen 2-pack increased from $106.32 in 2004 to $608.61 in 2016. The cost of the active ingredient in an EpiPen? About $1. Heather Bresch, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Mylan, which manufactures EpiPen, herself even stated “…if EpiPen needed to be a catalyst to show the system is broken, then so be it.”
In 2013, Congress passed legislation providing financial incentives to schools that keep epinephrine auto-injectors on hand. Mylan’s response? Restrict schools’ access to competing auto-injectors, as few as there are.
As adults, we have some measure of control over our surroundings. For children, exposure to a potentially fatal allergen can be completely inadvertent. More than 15 percent of school-aged children with food allergies have had a reaction in school. It is crucial that epinephrine be available for children with life-threatening allergies at all times and in all settings – at home, in school, with parents and other caregivers – to prevent needless loss of life. Families also need multiple epinephrine injector packs at any given time, compounding the cost.
Additionally, due to the one-year shelf life of the medication, it must be replaced often, regardless of whether it is ever used. This results in parents keeping injectors well past their expiration dates because they cannot afford new ones.
Having epinephrine injectors in hand is just one part of the additional cost caregivers face in raising children with food allergies. According to a recent USDA’s Expenditures on Children by Families report, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,600 to $14,700, depending on age. With the added costs identified by a recent national study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, of raising a child with a food allergy – including caretakers, special foods, special safe schools, camps, and other activities – these numbers climb to a range of $16,784 to $18,884. That is a $3,500 or 30 percent increase in the yearly cost of raising a child.
In response to this significant issue, I recently filed an amendment to legislation, the PACT Act 2.0., which requires the Center for Health Information Analysis to perform an impact analysis on the cost of providing epinephrine injectors to all minors and produce a report by June 2022.
It is imperative that we get these costs down. Price gauging by companies like the manufacturer of EpiPen is simply disgraceful. These pharmaceutical companies must come clean about the actual cost of production and stop exploiting a child’s life-threatening condition to increase their profit margins.
The inclusion of this amendment in the PACT Act 2.0., comprehensive legislation focused on prescription drug cost containment and consumer protection, will take us one step closer to providing epinephrine injector coverage for all children of Massachusetts and holding these companies accountable.
If you have any questions on this or any other issue, please feel free to contact me anytime via email at Diana.Dizoglio@masenate.gov or phone at 978-984-7747.
Yours in service,