Recently, the sky rocketing cost of EpiPen in US has made headlines in several news outlets. Epi-Pen is merely an auto-injector device containing epinephrine which can be a life saving medication for individuals experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. The drug has been around for ages and cheap to make but because of its life saving potential, many manufacturers may have taken advantage of it and has priced it higher than it should.
Closer to home in Canada, it is not nearly as expensive but is still not cheap. My family has recently discovered that we also need to carry an Epi-Pen. For two auto-injectors of Epi-Pen Jr, it costs just over $200 CAD. But the real cost of carrying an Epi-Pen is more than its monetary value.
Now that we need to carry an Epi-Pen everywhere we go, we also have to plan more carefully how to organize our outings. At school, there are tons of forms to fill out, to sign yourself away that no one can take full responsibility. We have to keep providing the same information to everyone who may need to know – from the teachers, bus drivers to after school care providers.
I understand the need for all these forms, procedures and education. After all, it can be a life threatening reaction that should be taken seriously. Everyone with a known allergy can behave differently; some may react easily or not, mildly or severely. Others may start having a reaction at the smell of the allergen without ever ingesting it. I have known people with known allergies to be so aware of their potential reaction that they would just walk themselves into ER because they have come in contact with the allergens (e.g. peanuts, shellfish). I have seen kids to walk away from the birthday parties because they cannot have the birthday cakes. I have seen a mother to start packing up her belongings at a soccer field because she realized she forgot to bring the Epi-Pen for her son.
Now I have to keep a reminder of where all the Epi-Pens are located. I have to ensure I replace them before they expire (which they do very frequently). I have to make sure if I ever leave my child with another care provider, that appropriate education is given so that he or she can administer the Epi-Pen if needed.
I have also forgotten to bring the Epi-Pen once. While luckily nothing did happen, I could not escape the feeling of guilt. What if something did happen and I didn’t bring the life-saving Epi-Pen.
Yes, the cost of Epi-Pen is high but the emotional burden on the family, the invisible cost to change how the family may need to function around the Epi-Pen and its ability to rob away any childhood fun is more than one can measure in dollar value.