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Why the Narcan vs Epi-Pen Memes Need to Stop, From an Allergy Mom

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Anyone who has access to social media might have seen the memes that compare free Narcan to other diseases or disorders and their subsequent medications. It hits home to me in many ways, but because my children, husband and I suffer from life threatening, anaphylactic allergies, the ones relating it to epinephrine (Epi-Pens) really sting the most (no pun intended).

if a kid has a life-threatening allergic reaction the parents have to pay ridiculous price for an epipen. But a junkie who od's for the 15th time gets Narcan for free? Seriously?

We have struggled over the years to pay for all our Epi-pens. There were years when each one had a copay of $50 each. My sons need one in the nurse’s office, and one in their Epi-bags that stay with them at all times during the day — so that equals four. Don’t forget we need one at home, and one for travel — add four more. Add my two (home and work/travel), and they add up quickly ($600 just in copays). Multiply that times two, because many times the expiration dates go bad and they need to be replaced at least twice a year, and we’re talking some bucks. I haven’t even included using one or one going bad in the heat or cold if they get left out too long.  For a family already living paycheck to paycheck, it’s Epi’s or food some months.

Fast forward to having insurance that requires a large deductible and out-of-pocket before anything is covered — over $600 each.  Now try just getting the four for school at $2400.

Or, the time when my son developed a new, anaphylactic allergy to milk and I had to use his Epi-pen to save his life (for a second
time). When we went to the ER, we were informed he had no insurance. Wait, what?! So we desperately needed to replace the Epi-pen we just used at home, but because of an input error on behalf of the state insurance, we had to wait two months before it was
reinstated. We didn’t have the $600+ to replace it. If we hadn’t had the extra one, or the rest of us didn’t have any, what would I have done for my son? How would I have saved his life had something else caused another reaction in the two months it took to reinstate his insurance?

So, we are no strangers to the costs of literally life saving medication.

When the memes started popping up on Facebook comparing Epi-pens to Narcan, it didn’t surprise me. But it does disappoint me in two main ways.

1. It highlights the ridiculous costs of life saving medications. Which reminds me of all the people choosing between bills, food and meds. It reminds me of bankruptcy and losing your home because you can’t afford medical bills. It reminds me of the disparity between those who have the means to pay for quality care, and those who have lost everything or had nothing to begin with and receive poor care. There is nothing OK or humane about it.

2. It also exemplifies a problem with society today: the lack of caring and compassion about our fellow human beings. Many of the memes imply or state that someone with an addiction is less worthy of receiving life-saving medication. That somehow, the allergic person’s (usually a child, though adults have anaphylactic allergies, too) life is more valuable that the addict. It’s not. They are both equally as valuable. The addict could be the next person to discover a cure for cancer. A mom watching her son overdose desperately wants Narcan as much as a mom watching her son suffocate to death/going into heart failure from anaphylaxis wants Epinephrine. Same love. Same emotions. Same desperate need.

So, rather than having these memes that somehow criminalize the addict while vilifying their condition, why can’t we create memes that highlight the real problem: the ridiculous and disproportioned growing cost of medical care. The political money game that is being played with our lives. All of our lives. Everyone is one illness, accident, diagnosis away from losing it all. Trust me when I say it.

We should all be joining forces, not pitting against each other. That’s what the powers that be want us to do. If we are so busy fighting the individual battle, we can’t unify to fight the same battle for all.

One of the things we can do is stop sharing memes that belittle or unjustly judge someone else’s battle to bring light to our own. There’s enough room for all of them. And, more often than not, it’s the same underlying issue no matter what battle it is.

So, from one allergy mom/survivor to the person or family struggling with addiction, I don’t appreciate or condone those memes or attitudes anymore than you do. I have seen and felt what addiction can do. I personally vow to continue to speak up on behalf of all of us, so one day we can all receive the life-saving medications and treatments we all deserve as human beings sharing one world together.

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Originally published: February 13, 2018
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