How has having allergies become so expensive, and unaffordable for families to keep up with?
An FKD Feature exclusive

 

I personally have more than 100 allergies to various foods, environments, animals, trees, pollen, nuts and dust. I’m used to having these allergies; I’ve had them my whole life.

But since I’ve gotten older and become more independent, I’ve noticed how expensive it is to have allergies.

The cost of my various medicines, including allergy pills, Benadryl, and nose spray is just less than $100 a month. EpiPens, which expire 18 months from the date of manufacturing, can go from $50 to $600 for two. To make matters worse, you have to buy a two-pack in case one of them malfunctions in a crisis. The treatment I use for my allergies is allergen drops, which are $200 a vial. I use two vials; they last a few months. Luckily, I can afford my treatments and still make rent, but many American families are struggling with the upkeep allergy treatments demand.

Allergies are more common and more expensive than ever

Allergy attacks resulting in anaphylactic shock rose 377 percent from 2007 to 2016. This shows that food allergies are becoming more common. Theorists wonder if the increasing prevalence of allergies in children could be because children don’t start eating common food allergy items like peanuts earlier, or if children are not being exposed to enough bacteria early in life to build up their immune system.

Regardless of the reason why allergies are becoming more common, the cost of having allergies is tremendous. The Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that families spend $4,187 dollars per year on health costs for each child with allergies. That amount of money goes into doctor visits, medicine, specialty food items and hypoallergenic household items. Food allergies are also costing the economy $25 billion a year.

But why are allergies so expensive?

The costs of living with allergies are so steep for no other reason than the fact that the cost of treatment in the U.S. is expensive. Let’s look at EpiPens for example. Mylan, a global healthcare provider, drove up the price of EpiPens by $500 since 2009. To compensate for the massive PR backlash from exponentially raising the costs of the life-saving medical device, Mylan started offering a $100 coupon, but many people’s deductibles exceed that. Some parents have turned to asking their children’s doctors to fill syringes with epinephrine since syringes only cost about $20. Using a syringe is dangerous since improperly injecting it into a vein rather than muscle could be fatal. But for many families, this is the only option.

EpiPens are not luxury items. For those like myself with life-threatening allergies, EpiPens are life-saving. It is frustrating to read that while they cost hundreds of dollars in the U.S., epinephrine pens in France only cost $85 for a pair. EpiPens are priced differently because in Britain, for example, the government and the drug industry worked toward an agreement to create a limitation on health care service spending. This limitation states that drug companies have to pay back any amount that goes over the fixed maximum. U.S lawmakers trying to create more affordable medicine often say that if the U.K. can have it, why not the U.S.?

Takeaway

It is not new information that the U.S. health care system needs continued work, but allergy care needs more attention. The fact that American children are walking around with syringes of epinephrine is very disheartening. Action must be taken to help allergy patients access the correct treatment needed.

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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Posted 10.16.2017 - 11:00 am EST