Mother wants EpiPens for allergy sufferers

Pharmaceutical provider Pharmac said subsidising adrenaline auto-injectors to all allergy sufferers costs too much but future funding remained under consideration.

It follows a Blenheim mother's plea for funding to subsidise her daughter's life-saving EpiPen used to administer a dose of adrenaline in the event of an anaphylactic shock.

Lindsey Bartholomew's 10-year-old daughter Ella was diagnosed with multiple anaphylaxis at 16 months. This means Ella can suffer an anaphylactic reaction at the slightest contact with an allergen. Ella is allergic to pineapple, nuts, seafood, shellfish and bees as well as dust, pollen and animals.

Bartholomew is one of more than 8000 signatories of an Allergy NZ petition pushing for Health Minister Tony Ryall to press Pharmac to fund auto-injectors. For many children and adults, the initial cost of getting an EpiPen, which ranged between $140 and $180, was out of reach, Bartholomew said.

Unlike in the UK and Australia, EpiPens in New Zealand are not subsidised by the Government.

The solo mother's last EpiPen was bought online for $71 from an English pharmaceutical provider licensed to sell them to the public.

"I want Pharmac to look at the bigger picture. Anaphylaxis is life threatening," she said. Pharmac director of operations Sarah Fitt said the high cost of auto-injectors meant they had not been subsidised in the past but they were open to the possibility of future funding. "Auto-injectors have not been funded to date because they have not been as cost effective as other pharmaceuticals Pharmac has been assessing," Fitt said.

"This is driven by factors like the high cost of the product, the short expiry date and the likelihood that most auto-injectors would be discarded, unused." As a viable alternative, Pharmac fund adrenaline ampoules using a needle and adrenaline vial which cost around $1 each. Pharmac are seeking advice on funding auto-injectors for people with bee and wasp venom allergies to be discussed at a meeting of its clinical advisory committee in May.

The Marlborough Express