By Kelley Lindberg
This Thanksgiving, we have another reason to be grateful: on November 13, 2013, President Obama signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This law is important because it recommends that states pass their own laws requiring schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors. Read FARE’s announcement and watch a video of the President signing the bill here: “School Access to Epinephrine.”
Why is it important to ask schools to stock their own epinephrine? A big reason is because studies show that 20 – 25% of all of the epinephrine injections administered in schools are given to students or adult staff WHO DIDN’T KNOW THEY HAD AN ALLERGY, and who therefore didn’t have their own medication. All too frequently we read about another child who died from a food allergy reaction because they didn’t have immediate access to epinephrine. This law will encourage schools to make sure that scenario never happens to one of their students.
Anyone can develop a food allergy at any time in their lives, often to foods they’ve been eating uneventfully for years. I developed allergies to avocado and brewer’s yeast in my 20s and to barley in my 30s. Then I developed a contact allergy to aluminum and other metals in my 40s. Just because a student hasn’t even shown signs of a food allergy doesn’t mean they won’t develop one. And if it happens at school, the consequences can be tragic.
This new law doesn’t, in and of itself, require schools to stock epinephrine. Instead, it encourages states to pass their own laws requiring stock epinephrine auto-injectors, and it provides incentives for states to do that. It raises the priority level of dealing with food allergies across the nation, pointing a spotlight at this very serious problem and illuminating a very simple way to deal with it – consistent and effective school policies that require epinephrine autoinjectors be added to each school’s medical first aid kits.
Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes EpiPen auto-injectors, is supporting this effort with a program called EpiPen4Schools, which allows eligible schools to receive up to 4 EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. auto-injectors at no cost. With this program, any school, no matter how tight their budget, can make sure they have the medication on hand to save lives.
So as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, remember to offer a word of thanks for the tireless advocates and legislators who worked hard over the last couple of years to make this Act into a Law. And many thanks to President Obama and his peanut-allergic daughter Malia, who recognized the importance of this law and its potential to save lives.