The National Association of School Nurses is helping its members as they try to find solutions for students whose families can’t afford the steep price increase of potentially life-saving EpiPens.
After Labor Day Weekend, most kids in the nation will be back to school, but this year many parents could be sending them off under a cloud of EpiPen-related worries.
Since Mylan acquired the product in 2007, the price for a pack of two of these epinephrine auto injectors has increased from little over $100 to more than $600 today. According to The New York Times, most of that increase has come in the last three years, as the cost rose to $609 from $265.
The price increase especially affects families with high-deductible insurance plans or no health insurance at all. Because of this, parents have been flooding school nurses’ voicemails with concerns over EpiPen availability.
And making sure schools have these EpiPens on hand is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4 to 6 percent of U.S. children have food allergies—and that up to 18 percent of those with allergies have had a reaction after accidentally eating something while at school. In addition, 88 percent of schools report they have at least one student with food allergies.
When a child is experiencing a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, caregivers can jab an EpiPen—which is filled with an exact dosage of Epinephrine—into a child’s thigh and, in most cases, immediately reverse the effects of the potentially life-threatening reaction.
The National Association of School Nurses has been busy trying to equip its members with information and resources to handle the influx of calls and concern over the rising cost of EpiPens. The group is doing this within its online community platform, which allows NASN to message and communicate with its members. And since it’s a two-way platform, school nurses can also reach out to the association with questions and concerns.
“In seeking resources for their students—because they need to keep them healthy and safe while they’re in school if they have diagnoses of anaphylaxis—[school districts and nurses] been looking at different options in the community,” said NASN Executive Director Donna Mazyck.
For instance, depending on the state, school nurses who are also registered nurses can administer epinephrine without the auto-injector, which drastically reduces the price of the drug. NASN has also been inquiring about the expiration dates on EpiPens—if they’re still effective in treating anaphylaxis past the prescription’s pull date. Other options include buying the generic brand, which Mylan just announced several days ago and will sell for about half the price of the brand-name EpiPen two-pack.
“What we’ve been saying is ‘look for the options that work to keep those students safe and healthy,’” Mazyck said.