SPRINGFIELD — All trained emergency medical personnel in Illinois soon will be able to treat severe allergic reactions with epinephrine injected through a syringe rather than with costlier autoinjectors — better known as EpiPens — under law that takes effect Jan. 1.
The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner late last week, comes as the maker of the EpiPen is facing increased scrutiny from the federal government over dramatic price increases for the lifesaving drug. The cost of a two-dose package of EpiPens, made by pharmaceutical company Mylan, jumped from less than $100 nine years ago to more than $600 in May, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
While the timing is a coincidence, Rose said recent attention from Congress has attracted the public eye to an issue that was first brought to him by a rural fire protection district he represents.
The Broadlands Longview Fire Protection District is southeastern Champaign County currently spends about $2,400 per year on four adult and four junior EpiPens, according to Rose’s office, but it will only have to spend about $50 annually to stock vials of epinephrine under the new law.
"We’re going to be able to provide this lifesaving medicine at a far, far lower price for our local property taxpayers," Rose said, adding that the savings will be even greater for larger emergency medical services agencies.
Dylan Ferguson, director of the McLean County Area EMS System, said the combined savings for agencies in the system could be as much as $200,000 over two to three years. The system is made up of 43 agencies and roughly 900 emergency medical personnel in McLean, DeWitt, Tazewell, Woodford and Putnam counties.
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“For us, it was significantly a cost issue,” Ferguson said.
Paramedics and more highly trained emergency medical technicians have long been able to inject epinephrine through syringes to treat potentially fatal allergic reactions, but the new law will make it possible for EMTs with basic-level training to do so, Ferguson said. Those EMTs often work for smaller rural agencies that can’t afford to hire paramedics and others with more advanced training, he added.
Agencies will be able to use the same training curriculum for basic-level EMTs that they currently use for paramedics and more highly trained EMTs, said Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. If they wish to create new training procedures, however, the department will have to approve them, she said.
Arnold said the new law leaves it up to individual agencies to decide whether they want to train basic-level EMTs to inject epinephrine with a syringe.
Several members of Congress have sent Mylan letters in recent days seeking more information about the price increase for EpiPens. The company said in a prepared statement Monday that the increases are a result of changing insurance coverage and that it’s making efforts to make the drug more affordable through discount programs for schools and individual patients.