A Pennsylvania senator is trying to make schools a little safer for children with life threatening allergies.
Pennsylvania Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny County) introduced legislation earlier this month that would require all Pennsylvania schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens.
Senate Bill 898 is designed to help students going into anaphylactic shock after experiencing a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
EpiPens work by injecting adrenaline into the victim’s system to slow down an allergic reaction, giving emergency personnel extra time to treat the individual.
Although Pennsylvania schools are currently encouraged to have EpiPens on site, Smith hopes to make them a requirement.
“We really feel like EpiPens and epinephrine should be treated the same, for instance, as defibrillators, which are almost in every public location right now in the country,” Smith said.
At this time, students with known food allergies are able to bring personal EpiPens to school. Smith said this bill is directed more toward saving the lives of students who are unaware of any life threatening allergies that they may have.
Smith hopes the legislation will be passed into law before this upcoming school year.
“Even if we’re not able to do it here over the next 30 days,” Smith said, referring to the deadline before the summer recess, “I intend to aggressively push this issue for as long as it takes to get this law passed because it’s that important to get these EpiPens into schools and into kids' hands who need them.”
Similar laws exist across the country. Last year, Virginia and Maryland passed EpiPen bills, bringing the total number of states that require epinephrine to eight.
A lobbying effort backed by Mylan Pharmaceutical Company, marketers of the EpiPen, led to a 2011 federal bill that encourages such laws. From 2011 to 2012, EpiPens sales brought in about $640 million, a 76 percent increase in just one year, according to a 2012 New York Times article.
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, one in 20 students in the United States has a food allergy, a 50 percent increase from the late 1990s. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that about 300 Americans die from food and insect allergies each year.
In addition to Bill 898, Smith is introducing legislation that would provide training to restaurants, libraries and community centers in obtaining and administering epinephrine.
Smith said this is “another effort to cover as many children as possible.”