GEORGETOWN COUTY, SC (WCSC) - Amid controversy over the price tag of EpiPens, some local school districts are taking advantage of a nationwide program to keep EpiPens stocked in schools: for free.
"We need them, we never know when a child or an adult is going to have a reaction," Georgetown School District head nurse Laura Tucker said. "Last year we had a total of about 160 children in the district that we knew of that had diagnosed allergies. So that's 160 children we know about, and there's absolutely no way to predict how many have an allergy that we don't know about."
Georgetown School District takes advantage of EpiPen manufacturer Mylan's free "EpiPen4Schools program. Tucker said the program keeps the district stocked with two EpiPen packs for emergency undiagnosed allergies.
Manufacturer Mylan has been spotlighted recently for raising prices since 2007 from $94 to $608 for a two-syringe pack. Despite schools being stocked, Tucker worries about some parents' ability to pay for the lifesaving drug out-of-pocket.
"At $600 per prescription that can be prohibitive for many families if they are underinsured or their particular plan doesn't cover the EpiPen," Tucker said. "Anytime you have a lifesaving medication and a cost that's prohibitive to obtaining that, that's a cause for worry."
Tucker said she's concerned families will have to rely on school stock, designed to cover emergencies.
"Our concern is that if we use our stock EpiPens, and we only have two per school, that we would run out," Tucker said. "And not have the ability to have more for those with undiagnosed allergies."
In addition, Tucker said EpiPens typically have a one-year expiration date, adding to families' expense.
According to Mylan's website, the program has provided more than 700,000 free epinephrine auto-injectors to schools since 2012. The company also responded to recent price backlash by announcing plans to expand discount programs to help pay for EpiPens. On Monday, Mylan announced it would
be releasing a generic version of the drug, priced at $300.
Other school districts using the EpiPen4Schools programs include Charleston County School District, Berkeley County School District, and Colleton County School District.
A Dorchester District 4 spokesperson said the districts' schools do not provide in-stock EpiPens. Parents bring in EpiPens for children with a doctor's order.
Dorchester District 2 spokesperson Pat Raynor said all of schools nurses have a limited number of EpiPens. While Dorchester District 2 does not require students to send the EpiPens to school, though some parents with allergies send the EpiPens that have been prescribed by their doctors for emergency use. "District officials will be exploring available programs and resources to provide the pens at lower costs for the future."