Some children with severe food allergies across the U.S. are forced to stay home from school due to the nationwide EpiPen (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors) shortage, KIRO-TV reported.
Chiquita Morris, the mother of five-year-old Eden, said her son started kindergarten at Spanaway Elementary School in Spanaway, Washington when she was told by the school that Eden could not return until he has an EpiPen.
For more than a year, Morris said she has been trying to get her hands on the $700 injector, but with no luck.
“Yes, I understand I need to get one, but there’s nothing I can do,” Morris told KIRO-TV.
Insurance Company Refuses To Cover The Pricey EpiPen
During a nationwide EpiPen shortage, Morris is among those scrambling to find these epinephrine auto-injectors used to treat severe allergic reactions.
Morris said she had been calling multiple pharmacies every day but has had no luck while her son is missing school.
Worse to the matter, when EpiPens were available, her insurance company refused to cover the $700 cost and she couldn’t afford it. Then, due to the shortage, she couldn’t even find one.
“I called my pharmacy, and they were like: ‘Oh no, we’re not gonna have any,'” Morris told CBS News.
She kept trying to call the pharmacies each day with no luck until her story was aired on CBS News. That was when she received a phone call from a representative at Mylan, which distributed the EpiPen.
“She found out where there is one available….I was so happy, blessed and thankful that someone took the time to hear our voice. Someone took the time to help my son,” Morris said.
With as many as two students affected by this in every classroom in the U.S., parents are calling on schools to have backup EpiPens–or generic versions–on hand until their pharmacies can fill prescriptions for them.
KIRO-TV looked up the Bethel School District website, and under the health services page, it wrote: “State law requires children with life-threatening conditions to have a medication and/or treatment order on file prior to the start of school.” But Morris thinks the district should do more to help kids stay in school.
“You’re discriminating these children because they don’t have a product available,” she said.
It’s A National Crisis
As of this spring, there has been a nationwide shortage of EpiPens and generic forms of the autoinjector. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this is due to issues in manufacturing and “pharmacy-level supply disruptions.”
This includes a shortage of components needed to make the EpiPen as well as “new processes” put in place after a Missouri facility failed to investigate product malfunctions, Hartsburg News reported.
Pharmacists said many prescriptions sit unfilled for months until the makers of the EpiPen, Pizer, can send them shipments–and that patients often are on a waiting list for the injectors.
Doses expire after a year, but because of the shortage, the FDA extended expiration dates in August for some adult doses of the EpiPen, which means that in December, injectors that had original expiration dates in August will need replacement, Daily Mail reported.
The efficacy of the product may be good for longer, but the FDA stated that the current research only shows it’s effective for a year to and a year and a half.
However, the EpiPen Junior, meant for children who weigh 66 pounds or less, did not fall under this extension.
“We’re in a national crisis with this shortage,” Pediatrician and Clinic Chief at the University of Washington Medical Center Doreen Kiss said. “When the decisions are, do we go to school and take a risk of having an exposure versus being excluded for a few months, it’s a very difficult situation.”
Morris believes the district needs to do more to help parents keep their children in school.
“I understand the health concern but I believe the school should have backup EpiPen as well, and not just parents,” she said.