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EpiPen funding ‘life-changing’

Funding for EpiPens will be life-changing for people with severe allergies, a Masterton pharmacist says.

Pharmac announced it will fully fund adrenaline auto-injector product EpiPens which can cost between $150 to $350 per year.

Possession of EpiPens is recommended for anyone who previously experienced a severe allergic reaction – anaphylaxis – or anyone at significant risk.

Life Pharmacy Masterton pharmacist Darryl Hughes said this would make a huge difference.

“For some people, this is a regular cost, around $150 per year. With the funding, it will cost people around $5.

“For anybody who has severe reactions to bee stings, nuts or chemicals, the advice is to carry one on them at all times. If they have a severe reaction and don’t have an EpiPen, the consequences are life-threatening.”

He said people needing Epipens were becoming more common.

“At this pharmacy, we probably sell three to four a month.

“New Zealand, like many other countries, is seeing an increase in allergies for a myriad of causes. Over time it is becoming more prevalent.”

Pharmac operations director Lisa Williams said they were pleased to announce the funding.

“Funding adrenaline auto-injectors will improve the quality of life for thousands of individuals who have allergies, their caregivers and whanau.”

Pharmac also changed eligibility criteria so that any relevant practitioner can assess a person’s risk of anaphylaxis, rather than a specialist.

Williams said about 12,000 people would access EpiPens in the first 12 months of funding; after five years, 17,000 people would access them yearly.

Allergy New Zealand chief executive Mark Dixon said they had advocated this for 40 years.

“The announcement has been a long time coming and we are thrilled that our collective voice has been heard and action has been taken to support New Zealanders living with the risk of anaphylaxis.

“The cost has meant this lifesaving medication has been out of reach for many people with severe allergies.”

In the last two years, Allergy New Zealand has run two campaigns to provide free EpiPens to the allergy community and raise awareness of the need for them to be funded long-term.

These campaigns were supported by Pub Charity to the tune of $650,000. The FundaPen campaigns followed eight submissions for Pharmac funding of adrenaline auto-injectors over the last 20 years.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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