A serious allergic reaction can be fatal, so many doctors prescribe an EpiPen for patients with extreme allergies. Doctors often recommend carrying epinephrine injections in environments where you are likely to encounter allergens that cause you to have a severe reaction. An EpiPen is specifically designed to be a portable, easily accessible epinephrine injection that can be administered as a quick response to severe allergic reactions. EpiPens can be life-saving tools for patients with serious allergies.
Understanding How EpiPens Work
A severe allergic reaction can happen in seconds after exposure to even a small amount of an allergen. EpiPens are a life-saving medication that reverses the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, works on a whole-body basis by causing blood vessels to restrict. During anaphylaxis, blood pressure drops and swelling closes the airway, blocking the lungs from getting oxygen. An injection of epinephrine will raise blood pressure and reduce swelling, allowing a person to breathe again.
To speed up the delivery of epinephrine in circumstances where fast reaction times are vital for a successful outcome, the EpiPen is made to auto-inject medication once activated. Your doctor, allergist or pharmacist can walk you through the exact steps you should take according to the instructions included with the medication. There may be specific guidelines about where on the body the injection should be administered and how long between the first and second shot if more than one dose is required to stop an allergic reaction.
An EpiPen may also be used to treat incidences of low blood pressure and may be administered to patients experiencing septic shock. The contents of an EpiPen can expire, so pay attention to the expiration date on an EpiPen. Discard any that have expired or developed discoloration, a cloudy appearance or look as if they have particles floating inside the liquid. Medication that is not past its expiration date should look clear and have no color.
Side Effects and Risks Associated with EpiPens
Because an EpiPen is used to treat a severe and sudden onset of allergic symptoms, it can be difficult to know what may be a side effect of recovering from the allergic reaction or what may be caused by a dose of epinephrine. Generally, an adrenaline boost like that given by an EpiPen may leave the recipient feeling nauseous and they could experience tremors or dizziness.
Other side effects can be compounded if you have unrelated medical conditions or take medication that interacts with epinephrine. While discussing the need for an EpiPen with your health care professional, be sure to inform them of your full medical history and any other prescription medications in order to prevent unintended side effects or ineffective dosing.
Medicare Coverage for EpiPens
Original Medicare benefits through Part A or Part B do not cover prescription medication when taken at home. In the event you are given an injection with an EpiPen in a hospital or doctor’s office, Part A or Part B coverage may apply. You may still have deductibles, copayments or coinsurance amounts associated with the care you receive in either setting.
Many stand-alone Part D prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage plans that combine Part A and Part B benefits with a prescription drug plan do not include EpiPens in their formularies. These plans are offered through private insurers who are contracted with Medicare to offer recipients these services. Each insurer determines coverage rules for their plans, which can change from year to year and may not be offered in every state.
Some Medicare recipients may qualify for dual-eligibility with Medicaid, which also provides prescription drug benefits through the Extra Help savings program or to those who qualify for full Medicaid coverage. EpiPens or similar auto-injected epinephrine medications may be available through those benefits programs, but terms and eligibility requirements can vary between states.