SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – A bill to lower the cost of a lifesaving medication is headed to the governor’s desk.
The proposal, which passed the General Assembly, would cap the cost of a twin pack of EpiPens at $60.
Families who need them say it would make a huge difference.
“You shouldn’t have to go, ‘Am I going to pay a bill or am I going to make sure that my child has this medication,’” Tiffany Mathis, the CEO and executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois, said.
One night, Mathis’ daughter was eating butter pecan ice cream, when her face and lips started to swell. At the hospital, doctors discovered she had a tree nut allergy.
Her daughter has needed to carry an EpiPen for nearly a decade. But the lifesaving medication can come at a high cost.
“I was a single mom, I was on Medicaid, she was on All Kids insurance, and around that time, some years later, the EpiPen skyrocketed, and they went from no copay, low copay to $100 an EpiPen,” Mathis said.
Mathis said her family doesn’t need just one pack — they use multiple.
“She needs to have at least four or five to split between all the households, daycare, extracurricular activities that she was participating in,” Mathis said.
EpiPens also have an expiration date, which means they need to be replaced.
“We’re not talking about Tylenol, or ibuprofen, you’re talking about an EpiPen that you can’t just not have,” Mathis said.
For many people with allergies, they could experience a life threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. They could have hives, redness on their skin, swelling of their lips and tongue, wheezing, and even trouble breathing.
But using the EpiPen in someone’s leg can help save a person’s life.
“Having an allergic reaction is scary, because everyday you live with a threat that your child might have something happen to them, and they might die over their allergy and it’s a very severe allergy at that,” Mathis said.
Lawmakers say they want to make the medication more affordable for families.
“This shouldn’t be an area where companies are making profits off of,” State Sen. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island), one of the bill’s Senate sponsors, said. “This is life or death for little kids, as well as adults.”
A couple of years ago, the state passed legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of EpiPens for people 18 or under.
“But it didn’t say affordable coverage for EpiPens and that’s where the General Assembly’s now having to go back and try to either define that or stipulate that with a specific dollar amount,” Garth Reynolds, the executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, said.
A two-pack of name brand EpiPens can cost more than $600 and up to $300 for the generic version.