EpiPen scandal raises questions about Vermont's public health po - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

EpiPen scandal raises questions about Vermont's public health policy

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There's a debate over lifesaving medications and which ones the state should help distribute.

Simply put, there's no easy solution or answer for people who wonder why the state helps supply opiate overdose reversal drugs, but not allergic reaction medications.

"It shouldn't be that much. You know people can't afford them," said Donna Godin.  

Godin is talking about EpiPens. Her mother was prescribed one for her allergic reaction Tuesday but got a nasty shock when she went to pick it up from the pharmacy.

"Even with her insurance it was $285 and she couldn't afford $285. So she didn't get it. So it's very frustrating to know that a 76-year-old woman can't get an EpiPen that could save her life someday," said Godin. 

WCAX News caught up with Godin at her job in Hyde Park. She told us it frustrates her that overdose-reversal drugs like naloxone are being distributed free to save the lives of drug addicts, but families trying to make sure their loved ones stay safe from allergies are often in limbo. 

"I would like to see the EpiPens are available to everybody, I mean, just like the Narcan," said Godin. "I mean, if you can just give the Narcan out and they don't have to pay for it, why would people who have allergies have to pay for their EpiPens?" 

The state's health department says it understands her concerns, but also says the Naloxone distribution program is important. Already, the reversal drug has been used 700 times through the department's pilot program to potentially save a life.

"If we can save people when they're in crisis and allow them to make it into recovery, that's part of our harm reduction strategy," said Chris Bell, Vermont Health Department.

Bell says addiction is a medical problem and the department treats it as such by helping make naloxone available. But he also understands the frustrations that EpiPen users are facing and says his department is working to find a solution to the cost.

"We're exploring options for what can we do to help with the EpiPen. We're certainly aware of the EpiPen problem right now and the availability of it," said Bell. 

He says they're looking into ways that the state might be able to offer guidance or a kit for epinephrine, the drug in EpiPens, so that it would be cheaper for people to administer themselves. Until that happens, Godin says she and the rest of her family will step up to get their mom her meds.

"We will come up with the money and get her prescription because that's what we do, we take care of our mom," said Godin.

The health department also says the attorney general's office is aware of the EpiPen price hike. I asked when we might learn more about possible solutions for families facing high costs and was told it could be within a month.

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