Robyn O’Brien: Wondering if Food Allergies Are on the Rise? EpiPen sales on track to bring in $640 million this year, a 76% increase over last yearhttp://nyti.ms/SqMiFi
As Child Allergies Rise, So Do Sales of an Antidote
A nurse at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., displays epipens in a kit provided for the school.
By KATIE THOMAS
It has become an all-too-familiar story in schools across the country: a child eats a peanut or is stung by a bee and suffers an immediate, life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
If parents and school authorities know about the allergy and a doctor’s prescription is on file, a nurse can quickly give an injection ofepinephrine, saving the child’s life.
But school nurses in many districts face an agonizing choice if a child without a prescription develops a sudden reaction to an undiagnosed allergy. Should they inject epinephrine and risk losing their nursing license for dispensing it without a prescription, or call 911 and pray the paramedics arrive in time?
After a 7-year-old girl died in January in a similar case in Virginia, the state passed a law that allows any child who needs an emergency shot to get one. Beginning this month, every school district in Virginia is required to keep epinephrine injectors on hand for use in an emergency. Illinois, Georgia and Maryland have passed similar laws, and school nurses are pushing for one in Ohio. A lobbying effort backed by Mylan, which markets the most commonly used injector, the EpiPen, made by Pfizer, led to the introduction last year of a federal bill that would encourage states to pass such laws.
Mylan has also lobbied state legislatures around the country directly and is passing out free EpiPens this fall to any qualifying school that wants them.
“When a child is having an anaphylactic reaction, the only thing that can save her life is epinephrine,” said Maria L. Acebal, the chief executive of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. “911 doesn’t get there fast enough.”
The efforts are an acknowledgment of the rising rates of food allergies among children and a handful of deaths from allergies across the country. In many schools, children carry their own epinephrine injectors in their backpacks to use themselves, if they’re old enough, or the devices are stored on their behalf in nurses’ offices.