Thousands of Iowans who get relief from allergies through allergy shots at a clinic could face a dramatic price increase or a loss of that service entirely through proposed federal regulations.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is considering new restrictions which could force allergy clinics to significantly scale back the service or close.
“We need to remember the history of allergy shots, having been safely administered in the United States for over 100 years,” Grassley says. “There’s numerous studies that have found that these shots are effective and safe.”
Under the proposed regulations, allergy clinics would be barred from preparing allergy shots in-house. Clinics would have to order the extracts from a limited number of labs authorized to prepare them, causing higher prices, longer wait times and a run on dwindling supplies.
Coincidentally, it’s allergy season now and Grassley says he’s hearing from worried Iowa allergists.
“Besides a few physicians, we’ve also heard from the Iowa Allergy and Asthma Society, very concerned about the proposed guidelines that their members and patients won’t be properly treated,” Grassley says. “The proposal would drastically reduce access to allergy shots for patients who need them.”
More than 2.6-million Americans get allergy shots every year. Grassley says he and several other senators are composing a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, asking her to reconsider or reject the proposed regulations.
“If she doesn’t reconsider it, then there are other appropriate actions we can take,” Grassley says. “Probably the easiest would be to put an amendment on an appropriations bill for HHS overriding or amend the legislation, putting in a separate bill.”
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, affects as many as one in every three Iowans and accounts for more than 22-million health care visits a year nationwide. Direct costs for treatments across the country were estimated at $11.2 billion in 2005, while indirect costs include an estimated 6-million lost work days a year.