Why Pharmac won't fund lifesaving Epipens

Epipens can be the difference between life and death for people who have food allergies but, although it seems commonsense to have the devices funded by Pharmac, pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Allergy New Zealand allergy advisor Penny Jorgensen says the issue lies with the way the devices are classified by Pharmac.

"They compare it to a vial of adrenalin, which is about a dollar. [Pharmac] will tell you, it's a dollar here [for adrenalin] and it's $100 for an Epipen," she told The AM Show.

However, Jorgensen says the issue is an Epipen is vastly different to a needle and syringe with adrenalin. Epipens are specially designed so that anyone can use them quickly and easily, as time is vital during anaphylaxis.

"It's been designed for non-medical persons," Jorgensen said on Wednesday. 

"No person is going to carry around a needle and syringe!"

When it comes to funding, Jorgensen says they've tried everything to get Pharmac to listen.

"We've done literature reviews, formal applications, petitions - we just can't seem to get past them," she said.

"Our Medicines Act is just really out of date. Our Medsafe registration process does not understand devices, and they're not investing expertise into this area, which they should be doing," she told The AM Show.

There's reason for concern over funding, as studies from the University of Auckland have shown food allergy related hospital admissions have risen over the past 10 years.

For adults, the rate of admissions has almost doubled, and for children, it's almost tripled.

"The thing that really concerned us is that it was three times the rate in Pacific Island communities than it was for others," said Jorgensen.

"And food allergies are not a cheap allergy to have - you need a specialised diet, medication. You can spend hours in the supermarket reading labels," she said.