First-grader sent home for not providing school with EpiPen

First grader Nicholas Quezada was sent home from Carl Sanburg Elementary in Kirkland for not providing school will Epipen for his peanut allergy, as required by state law. (KOMO)

KIRKLAND, Wash. - It was Nicholas Quezada's second day as a new first grader at Carl Sandburg Elementary school in Kirkland. He and his family had just moved to Kirkland from southern California a month ago. But it was a second day he soon won’t forget.

His parents got a call from the principal telling them Nicholas had to go home immediately, not for anything he had done, but because his parents had not supplied an EpiPen in case his peanut allergy caused him to go into anaphylactic shock, a potentially life threatening condition.

An EpiPen auto injects epinephrine and has proven to be a life saver for people suffering an acute allergic reaction. It’s maker Mylan has also been the target of serious criticism for a recent 500 percent overnight price hike and many patients have said they can’t afford it.

“She [the principal] explicitly said he cannot be on campus because he needs an Epipen or a note from his doctor says his allergy has gone away," said Doug Quezada, Nicholas father.

Nicholas’ mom picked him up from school and then scrambled to find an allergist to test him. His father says his son has a mild peanut allergy and had been taking Benadryl, an antihistamine as a treatment.

The next day, the allergist told the parents Nicholas was still allergic to peanuts, which meant his parents needed to supply an EpiPen to the school for Nicholas to return to school.

“When the doctor told my wife the cost of the EpiPen, I flipped I couldn't believe it,” said Doug. Mylan recently raised the price of a pair of EpiPens to $600.

“I feel like we are paying a ransom, for our child's health, his life,” said Doug. “We spent the whole morning with insurance to get the price reduced and apply all the coupons we could find."

The insurance paid for a portion of four EpiPens, the yearly maximum the insurance would cover says Doug. He says the school took two.

Washington State law says students with a life-threatening condition that requires medication in an emergency have to have that medication at school while the child is there.

“I was kind of in shock, but I get where they are coming from,” said Doug about the school’s response. “I think they are caught in the middle like everyone else.

What the family strongly objects to is the price being charged for life saving drug that has a shelf life of just one year.

“This charade of having to fork over to pay this ransom, we’ll have to do it every year,” said Doug. “For allot of people it's an impossible ransom we have to pay."

A spokeswoman for the Lake Washington School District says the principal was just following state law.

Kathryn Reith said school nurses work with families to get a nursing plan filed with the school and needed medications or treatments.

“School nurses regularly assist families to access agencies or pathways to get reduced cost or free medications,” said Reith.

Nicholas’ father said his son felt ashamed being pulled out of class, thinking he had done something wrong. He said Nicolas felt better after he explain what happened in super hero terms.

“I told him you got your kryptonite and there's this company behaving like Lex Luther and they are greedy,” said Doug. “And he goes 'what would Batman do?' and I told him what Batman would do is, say something about it."

And that’s what Doug said he plans to do.

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