Treating life-threatening allergies in schools

A pharmacist holds a package of EpiPen epinephrine auto-injectors. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A massive hike in prices of EpiPens has been making headlines for weeks now. A two-pack of the injectors costs more than $600 – and while there’s a generic version in the works that will cost about half the price, there’s still a huge co-payment for families who cannot avoid purchasing the life-saving devices.

The president of the Rhode Island Certified School Nurse Teachers Association, Diane Kowal, told Eyewitness News about three percent of students have known life-threatening allergies.

For moms like Lacee Aguiar, sending the kids back to school is stressful.

“The anxiety on the first couple weeks of school is at an all-time high until everybody gets adjusted and feels comfortable,” she said.

Lacee’s son has severe nut allergies and like many kids, his safeguard is an EpiPen. She said there is a plan in place at school in case something unexpected happens.

According to Kowal, most schools have a backup, including four free EpiPens from Mylan.

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Local: Seekonk mom reacts to EpiPen price hike »

“The school nurse will create a care plan for their child that is shared with people who care for their child,” Kowal said. “So that in the event that their child has life threatening allergy in the school setting, epinephrine can be administered as the physician has ordered.”

The company launched the backup plan several years ago – before coming under fire for hiking the price of the pens.

“The initial purpose of the four were so that if there is a child – or even a staff member that never had a life-threatening allergy in the past – as a registered nurse in the school setting says they are having a life-threatening food allergy, that they have epinephrine and can administer to that person,” Kowal said.

The life-saving devices expire, though, so schools have to throw out unused EpiPens at the end of every school year.

According to Kowal, students should have two EpiPens at school and two at home in case they have a reaction and need a second dose.

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