Sinn Féin Louth TD and party leader Gerry Adams has called on the Minister for Health to define Anaphylaxis as a long term illness, under the Long Term Illness Scheme, as is the case with Diabetes, Haemophilia, Epilepsy and other diseases and medical conditions.
Mr. Adams has also urged the establishment of a state wide education programme to alert teachers, health care professionals, citizens and parents about the dangers of Anaphylaxis.
The Louth TD has asked the Minister to look at introducing a scheme to make Epi-pens available in schools, workplaces and other public places, similar to the provision of defibrillators, and for a scheme to be introduced to train volunteers as first responders.
Defining anaphylaxis as a long term illness would allow those suffering from Anaphylaxis to access free drugs and medicines for the treatment of their condition. This scheme is administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE), under Section 59 of the Health Act 1970.
Gerry Adams TD said:
“Anaphylaxis is a dangerous and permanent condition that creates breathing difficulties, a sudden drop in blood pressure and swelling of the face. It arises from an allergic reaction to food or drugs and if not treated with adrenaline it can quickly lead to death. In this state almost 700 adults and children are brought to hospital each year suffering from this life-threatening condition.
“Just before Christmas, a 14 year old girl died in O Connell Street after she inadvertently ate Satay sauce which contains nuts and went into anaphylactic shock. Her mother was refused an epi-pen by a pharmacy without a prescription. The young girl died a short distance from the pharmacy as her mother tried to bring her to a hospital.
Following this tragedy I wrote to the Minister for Health asking him about the availability of Epi-pens which allow patients to self-administer adrenaline.
The Minister stated that “Adrenaline pens, as injectable medicines, are prescription only under EU law and may only be supplied on foot of a valid prescription. However, there is provision in the current Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003 (as amended) which permits pharmacists, in emergency circumstances, to supply certain prescription only medicines without a prescription.” He said that his department is “considering a review of the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003.”
Last week, in a subsequent answer to further PQs I had submitted the Minister for Health acknowledged that there is provision in the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations “which permits pharmacists, in emergency circumstances, to supply certain prescription-only medicines, including adrenaline pens, without a prescription.”
I had specifically asked the Minister what steps had the Department of Health taken to ensure that all pharmacies are aware of this?
The Minister said that this is the responsibility for the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), which is an independent statutory body.
The Minister also revealed that in May 2012 his department had “issued up to date advice to pharmacists on the emergency supply provisions of the medicines legislation”.
I welcome the Minister’s statement that he is currently examining the possibility of amending the Prescription and Control of Supply Regulations to facilitate the wider availability of adrenaline pens without a prescription in emergency situations. This must be done as a matter of urgency.