Life-saving drugs should be free

It’s an “Epi-c” disgrace on the part of everyone — the insurance companies, the drug companies, the White House and anyone else you can think of that the price of an EpiPen was allowed to skyrocket to $600. A quick Google check revealed that the price has dropped down to below $300 for a double pack, but that is still unacceptable and still a disgrace.

There are certain drugs that should never, ever be anything but free. Any life-saving drug — including EpiPen — should be in that category.

EpiPen (Epinephrine) is for people who suffer from allergies that result in anaphylaxis, which is an acute allergic reaction to which the body has become hypersensitive and can be life-threatening. As many as 8 million Americans, or 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, have food allergies, a leading cause of anaphylaxis. “Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department — that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction,” according to report from Foodallergy.org

According to the same report, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children under the age of 18. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.”

My daughter was given an EpiPen when she had an adverse reaction to food, but because we have a very good drug plan the double-pack only cost us the price of a co-payment. However, there are so many other families out there who are not so fortunate. As a parent, how do you choose whether to pay the price of the drug or pay rent?

The number of children and individuals who have experienced anaphylaxis has reached epidemic proportions, and yet the drug that is so needed is priced out of reach for so many in need. For those people, having an EpiPen is not a luxury, but a necessity. So why should it have any cost at all?

According to a report last year there was an uptick in drug overdoses of 73 percent, which has also reached epidemic proportions.

In order to stem the tide of this epidemic, Narcan (naloxone) — an injectable antidote to opiate drugs — is routinely stocked by the police, schools and health professionals, who dispense it when necessary free of charge.

Not for Nuthin™, it seems to me that there is something very wrong with a system that does not provide a drug that can save a life due to anaphylaxis for free, but does for a drug that counteracts an overdose. I’m not saying that the life of an addict who is overdosing is not important. What I am saying is that a person who needs to have an EpiPen is just as important, and should not have to worry how to afford the life-saving drug.

Ask yourself this: why were drug companies and what they are allowed to charge conveniently left out of the Affordable Care Act? Their regulation and what they charge should have been first on the list. When the government decided all Americans were entitled to quality health care, being entitled to quality, free, life-saving medications should have been a priority as well.

Follow me on Twitter @JDelBuono.

Joanna DelBuono writes about national issues every Wednesday on BrooklynDaily.com. E-mail her at jdelbuono@cnglocal.com.

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