Parents Of Kids With Allergies Now Question Their Advocacy Of EpiPen Programs

Image courtesy of Phillip Bradshaw

Requiring epinephrine auto-injectors to be available in schools in case a child has a life-threatening allergic reaction isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Under some circumstances, it’s a life-saving one. However, EpiPen maker Mylan recruited mothers of children with food allergies as ambassadors for its own interests a few years ago while continuing to hike the price of EpiPens, hurting the very same community of families. Now the bloggers question their participation in Mylan’s “summits” and their blogging for the cause.

You might remember the EpiPen program for schools: the same one that the state of New York is now investigating for possible antitrust violations. Mylan provided free or discounted pens to schools that voluntarily kept epinephrine auto-injectors on hand, or were legally required to. In exchange for discounts, schools would accept the condition that they wouldn’t stock any of the other competing auto-injectors on the market.

Reuters spoke to some parents who traveled to the educational “summits” and wrote blog posts about the important issue of making auto-injectors available in schools. Mylan provided them with training in how to give on-camera interviews and persuade lawmakers, and some testified before state legislatures.

“I personally believe that Mylan held the summits to gain blogger trust and then used those bloggers to spread word about their initiatives,” one mother who no longer blogs about food allergy issues but who attended summits told Reuters in an e-mail. “They raised prices while those initiatives gained traction.”

Companies recruiting parent bloggers as brand ambassadors is common, but in this case, they are the same parents dealing with rising co-payments or retail prices for EpiPens. One mother began as a blogger-advocate and ended up working for Mylan as a spokeswoman. Reuters reports that she quit last month as the controversy over EpiPens picked up just in time for back-to-school season.

Parent bloggers question role in Mylan’s EpiPen schools push [Reuters]