Dr. Bethea: Epinephrine Auto-Injectors in TX Schools Saves Lives

TMA Testimony by Louise Bethea, MD

Senate Committee on Education
Committee Substitute to Senate Bill 66

March 12, 2015

Good day, Chair Taylor and members of the committee. My name is Louise Bethea, MD, and I’m a physician in The Woodlands. I am board certified in allergy and immunology. I am testifying on behalf of more than 48,000 physician and medical student members of the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the Texas Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society. 

I appreciate the opportunity to testify in favor of the committee substitute to Senate Bill 66. Thank you to Senator Hinojosa for sponsoring this important legislation. 

We believe this legislation is a significant achievement in protecting our young Texans at risk of anaphylaxis, by providing access to lifesaving epinephrine. Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body allergic reaction, and can be fatal. An anaphylactic reaction requires immediate medical response that would include an injection of epinephrine and a visit to an emergency department. 

Immediate access to epinephrine during anaphylaxis is critical. And epinephrine is the only treatment for anaphylaxis.

Food allergies are a common cause of anaphylaxis. An estimated one in 13 U.S. children — about 160,000 in Texas — have food allergies.  Up to 25 percent of children could have a serious reaction without having a history or diagnosis of food allergy. Insect stings are another cause of anaphylaxis, along with medications and latex.

Emergencies happen everywhere in our communities, including schools. To protect our students, our physicians have stepped up and worked with their local school districts to provide training about anaphylaxis and epinephrine auto-injectors. This legislation would make sure students throughout Texas would have access to epinephrine for an anaphylactic emergency.  

Equally important to making sure epinephrine is readily available is providing legal liability protection to the physician prescribers, pharmacists, and those in the schools trained to administer them. This must also be done for the school districts to be able to carry out this important program.

This bill also would make sure school personnel are properly trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis. We believe this would support the many students in Texas who already have a diagnosis and carry their own auto-injectors. Seconds matter. While accidental injection occurs, we believe the risks associated with anaphylaxis are far more severe.

While we only saw the committee substitute yesterday, we are working with the author to correct some legislative council changes that do not adequately reflect our liability concerns for physicians who assist districts with this effort. 

Thank you for your time today, and thank you again to Senator Hinojosa for sponsoring this important bill. We stand by ready to assist our local schools in this important lifesaving effort.

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