© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2019

EpiPens cause financial stress

Tia McDougall

The injection devices can save lives but their high cost means many people simply can't afford them.

EpiPens are a lifesaving device used as an auto injector designed to stabilise a person, who is in a state of anaphylactic shock.

The device is not government-funded, costs about $150 and expires after a year.

Three formal petitions have been submitted to Parliament to fund EpiPens in New Zealand. The most recent one, created by Victoria Johnson, gained 2000 signatures. 

Johnson created the petition after her eight-year-old son had an anaphylactic reaction from a wasp sting, an allergy she wasn't aware of. Once the ambulance arrived her son was well looked after by professionals but upon leaving the hospital she was advised to buy two EpiPens. 

"They told me to buy two in case one doesn't work." 

Johnson created the petition to help people, who can't afford EpiPens. 

Leeann Redman, whose 16-year-old son has an allergy to peanuts, agreed the government should fund EpiPens

"I know people who don't use them because they can't afford it." 

Redman said the government could look for an alternative. 

The alternative to the EpiPen is a needle syringe and ampoule of adrenaline. An ampoule of adrenaline costs $1. To use this in a time of anaphylaxis, someone would need to correctly load the adrenaline into the syringe and inject it into the thigh of the suffering person.

Christchurch Hospital nurse Rose Avis said the alternative had major implications. 

"People won't know how to do that properly. If they do it wrong and get air in the syringe and inject that, it can kill." 

EpiPens were much safer and convenient, she said.