Bulk purchasing plan to make more EpiPens available

  • FILE - This Oct. 10, 2013, file photo, shows an EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Hendersonville, Texas. Shares of over-the-counter drugmaker Perrigo sank early Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, on a report that its stock owners will reject a hostile, 26-billion takeover bid from Mylan. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File) Mark Zaleski

@LaurelDemkovich
Published: 7/24/2017 9:00:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In the Northampton Public School District, 225 students have food allergies and 28 are allergic to other substances, such as insects or latex, according to Karen Jarvis-Vance, director of health services, education and safety.

Many children with serious allergies are prescribed EpiPen, an auto-injector that administers epinephrine to stop life-threatening allergic reactions. They may need the prescription for their entire life, and may need more than one EpiPen available at any given time.

About 10,000 schoolchildren in Massachusetts have prescriptions for EpiPens, but because of rising prices, many families have trouble purchasing the prescription, state Sen. Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow, said in a recent statement.

Lesser was announcing a new EpiPen bulk purchase program that he sponsored as an amendment to the state budget, which was recently signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Modeled after the state’s Narcan bulk purchase program, the EpiPen program authorizes the state Department of Public Health to coordinate the purchasing of the auto-injectors, negotiating a reduced bulk price.

The department can then provide municipalities — and their schools, camps and local first responders — with the medicine, passing the savings along.

“As the price of EpiPens has continued to climb, parents have been forced to make unbearable choices between paying for a lifesaving drug for their child or paying for any number of other health bills,” Lesser said in his statement.

In an interview with the Gazette he added, “We want to give states the ability to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies for a better price.”

The pharmaceutical company Mylan acquired the EpiPen product in 2007. According to Lesser, the price has been steadily rising, from $103.50 for a set of two EpiPens in 2009 to $608.61 this May.

Each child with a prescription most likely has up to six EpiPens, to keep one handy in multiple places — school, home or camp — Lesser said. Mylan recommends that EpiPens be replaced annually. The costs add up.

School health departments are among those that will be able to take part in the bulk purchasing program.

Students provide their own EpiPens, but the Northampton school department also provides two to four EpiPens to each school in the district each year, said Jarvis-Vance. Usually, the auto-injectors are used for students or adults who didn’t realize they had an allergy.

Some of those EpiPens are donated by Mylan through its EpiPen4Schools program. That program offers eligible schools up to four free EpiPens, along with training videos and a storage locker. The district receives two free EpiPens per building per year, Jarvis-Vance said.

“That program has been very helpful because without it, the cost would pretty much decimate my budget,” Jarvis-Vance said.

Still, EpiPen4Schools does not provide every EpiPen that the school needs. Jarvis-Vance said the bulk purchase program would really help bring the purchasing costs down.

“I think this is great,” Jarvis-Vance said. “Anything we can do to push the price down not only for the schools but also for consumers and parents is amazing.”

The next step of the program is appropriating money to fund it. The budget amendment does not provide funding to purchase the EpiPens. Instead, it establishes a bulk purchasing fund that can be financed by contributions from the state, towns, cities and private donors.

The bulk Narcan program lowered the cost of that drug from $66 to $22. Lesser hopes the EpiPen program will have similar results.

“We want to make sure we’re doing anything we can to get these prices down,” Lesser said.




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