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Monday, March 4, 2013 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.

Agreement reached on EpiPen bill

By Brian M. Rosenthal
Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OLYMPIA — Potentially lifesaving allergy medication may soon be available to more students, thanks to an agreement reached last week by lawmakers and a school-nurses organization that had initially opposed the proposal due to safety and legal concerns.

The now-amended Senate Bill 5104, likely to be approved this session, would allow schools around the state to stockpile epinephrine, which can be used to prevent or stop severe allergic reactions that can kill within minutes.

Epinephrine is injected into the thigh, often with a device known by the brand name EpiPen. It rarely causes harm if used when not needed, health officials say.

School staffers have only been able to inject students who have been diagnosed with an allergy. And the schools cannot currently store extra epinephrine, to be used in emergencies, or use one student’s EpiPen on another student.

Under the amended bill, school nurses would be able to use epinephrine on any student, regardless of whether the student has been diagnosed.

Other school employees, if designated and trained by the nurse, would be able to use epinephrine on diagnosed students.

The amended bill would not allow all school employees to use epinephrine on undiagnosed students, as an original version approved by the state Senate allowed.

A leader of the School Nurse Organization of Washington, a volunteer professional organization that promotes quality school nursing, said that would conflict with a state law that prohibits nurses from delegating the responsibility of diagnosing ailments.

It also would be dangerous because other health conditions can sometimes mimic severe allergic reactions, said Lynn Nelson, the group’s legislative chair.

The organization opposed the bill’s original version, sending a letter to members of the state House Education Committee, because of the provision on non-nurses giving epinephrine to undiagnosed students.

Nelson said the nurses supported the bill’s concept all along but wanted to make sure it was safe and legal before signing on.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Mark Mullet, said he is happy with the compromise.

“I would have liked to do more, but this could save lives,” said Mullet, D-Issaquah.

If the legislation proves successful, Mullet said, he may push to expand it in the future to have a broader reach.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 360-236-8267 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal


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