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Petition for funding Adrenaline Auto-injectors

Media Release

Allergy Campaigner Demands Funding for Adrenaline Auto-injectors in New Zealand

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Two year old Otto Richardson has multiple severe allergies and is dependent on adrenaline autoinjectors to stay safe in a dangerous world. In New Zealand, it is estimated 20,000 are living with severe allergic disease and also at risk, like Otto Richardson, of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic condition characterised by it’s rapid onset and it is life threatening unless treated, adrenaline being the treatment required for this kind of reaction.

Otto’s mother, Helen Richardson, has initiated an online campaign calling on the New Zealand government to review the present arrangements for funding adrenaline auto-injectors in New Zealand. Internationally, in countries like Australia and UK, this life saving treatment is funded or subsidised but this is not the case in New Zealand. As Mrs Richardson explains,

“We carry adrenaline auto-injectors everywhere we go, we carry at least two and we have two at home as back up. In New Zealand an auto-injector for a child can cost around $150 and they expire every year. I have just purchased two injectors from an international pharmacy for a third of this cost.

“However, not everyone is able to make these choices and there are too many people in this country struggling with the additional costs of living with severe allergic disease who can not afford to purchase these injectors and they are living at great risk in an already stressful situation.

“I believe there is a moral requirement to fund this treatment and that children and adults living with severe allergic disease should be accorded the same rights as others to be able to access life-saving treatment."

Mrs Richardson’s petition to the health minister to review funding for these auto-injectors launched just before christmas and has already attracted 4300 signatures. Mrs Richardson hopes to raise greater awareness among the general public about the challenges of living with severe allergic disease.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding about allergies and people commonly confuse allergy and intolerance particularly when it comes to food.”

Allergy is an immune system mediated response and food allergy is a significant trigger for anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reactions to tree nut and peanut are most commonly associated with fatal anaphylaxis but there are many allergenic foods aside from the ‘top 8’ (peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, eggs, dairy, shell fish, fish). These 8 account for 90% of food allergy. Anaphylaxis may be triggered also by other allergens such as insect bites or stings.

The rates for food induced anaphylaxis in Australia increased 350% between 1994 - 2005 and there is similar data coming out of the UK.

“There is nothing uniquely protective about the New Zealand environment to suggest the prevalence data is any different. Allergy NZ estimates 1 in 10 children born in New Zealand is effected by severe allergy.”

For the past 8 years, Allergy NZ has submitted an application to Pharmac for funding of adrenaline auto-injectors but these applications have been declined. At present Pharmac funds vials of adrenaline to be administered with a syringe. Mrs Richardson argues this is not a safe or effective way for adrenaline to be administered in the community.

“The literature has clearly stated, in the absence of an alternative method of managing anaphylaxis, the auto-injector is the only relatively safe means of ensuring effective administration of adrenaline in a community context. The vial and syringe, or pre-drawn syringes are not recommended by the WAO (World Allergy Organisation) and they are articulating a global consensus statement so we have to ask the question why are auto-injectors not funded in this country when it is commonly accepted the method Pharmac do fund is more likely to lead to delayed dose, overdose, under dose, or no dose at all.”

Sources -

HRJanuary 2014


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