For families managing life-threatening allergies, access to auto-injectable epinephrine — the medication that reverses the harmful effects of anaphylaxis, is critical.
But the price tag for the go-to prescription, EpiPen, a product manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Mylan, Inc., has skyrocketed in recent years, hitting a record high of $649 for a two-pack. The spike has outraged parents and pediatricians, and in some cases, stunted access for those with no insurance or high-deductible plans.
But the epinephrine auto-injector landscape is starting to shift.
“Food allergies can be terribly isolating for a kid. One parent told me his child was forced to sit all alone on a stage during lunch period. And siblings can feel resentful because in many cases parents don’t feel they can take family vacations or even eat dinner in a restaurant.”
The problem here isn’t food allergies themselves, but the diagnostic tests we use. As SciAm reports, the standard skin prick test can have a 50 to 60 percent false-positive rate, labeling many children as food allergic who actually aren’t.
One answer: Use a better food allergy test. Lee advocates for placebo-controlled testing. While these tests are more resource intensive, he tells SciAm that they are also much more accurate:
A potential irritant is eaten, and the body’s response (a rash, say, or swelling) is compared with what happens after eating something that looks like the irritant but is benign. For example, a patient who might be allergic to eggs is given a tiny amount of egg baked into a cake, along with a taste of egg-free cake. Ideally, the test is double-blind, meaning that neither the patient nor the allergist knows which cake contains egg. The accuracy rate of these tests, for both positive and negative results, is about 95 percent, according to Lee.