Thursday, July 5, 2012

EpiPen Insanity

Several weeks ago, I was made aware of Mylan's new advertisement campaign for EpiPen(R) Auto-Injectors. What I found was disturbing, to say the least.

Before I get into the details, let me first say this: The cornerstone of food allergy management is strict avoidance of the allergen, recognition of symptoms, and prompt treatment of reactions with prescribed medication that should be carried at all times.
The commercial depicts a mother driving her peanut-allergic son to a birthday party.  The mother remarks that the party "should be pretty awesome, even with your peanut allergy and a cake made of who knows what."  She's not worried about his life-threatening allergy "because we're prepared... With EpiPen."
I know what you're thinking...  What's the big deal?  It IS good to be prepared with an Epi Pen (or two!).  And it is, but I still find this commercial really irresponsible.  Here's why:
This exchange totally minimizes the seriousness of an allergic reaction and EpiPen treatment.  An EpiPen is not a free pass to eat anything you'd like.  Children can and do die from anaphylactic reactions to foods.  To imply that there's nothing to worry about as long as you have an EpiPen is irresponsible, at best.
The glaring omission here is the message of avoidance.  Exposure to an allergen is not a "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" scenario!  An EpiPen is a tool in your allergy toolbelt - not a cure-all solution.  Food allergies are serious business, and to imply that they are a mere inconvenience that can be circumvented with an EpiPen is ludicrous.
I suppose there's also a selfish tint to my anger.  As a parent of a child with serious but rare medical issues, it's a constant battle to be taken seriously.  We fight every day to keep our children safe, and are rewarded with responses like "why are you so uptight?" and "let him LIVE a little!"  This commercial reinforces that very same ignorant response - allergies are no big deal, carry your medicine and everything will be fine.
There's quite the public outcry in the food allergy community about this commercial.  I truly hope someone over at Mylan takes notice.  This commercial is not okay.
UPDATE: In the many days between writing this post and publishing it, I learned that Mylan pulled the ad.  I applaud their responsiveness and hope they pay more attention to responsible marketing in the future.


  1. I hear the same thing about being a helicopter mom. It's so hard to explain to people that kids die from allergic reactions. People (and family) look at me crazy when I won't let my son try stuff on a whim. The park is a nightmare as well. I never realized how many kids carry around food. I've seen WHOLE peanut granola bars just lying on the ground. So scary.

    I just try to ignore those people because I know how to take care of my son. As do you! :-)

  2. I'm a little perplexed... Why the need for an as at all? It's not as though an EpiPen is an elective medication. One would think an advert on how to use a pen, or to remember to carry your pen would be more beneficial.