Should Epipens Be Used Without a Prescription?

By Heather Legg

Since my daughter was prescribed an Epipen auto injector pen 6 years ago, I’ve often wondered what happens if you need an Epipen but don’t have a prescription. Would someone offer theirs to you? Would an establishment or school have one on hand to save a life even without a prescription? What if a first reaction is life threatening and the person wasn’t aware of his allergy, so he didn’t have one?

Few days ago I saw in the news that in Chicago, a bill that could allow this is making its way to the governor’s desk to hopefully become a law. The senate just passed a bill that “would allow school nurses to inject students with epinephrine even if the student isn’t prescribed it.” The House already unanimously approved this bill in April.

If this passes, a nurse could use an Epipen on someone who is having an allergic reaction even if the student does not have his own prescription for an Epipen or have it in his medical plan. I even thought about this earlier this week as I was picking up my daughter’s Epipen from the school nurse for the summer. The nurse had to first find my daughter’s name in her file, then her Epipen in a closet FULL of Epipens. Wouldn’t it be a lot faster just to grab an Epipen, regardless of whose it is, if there is a life threatening situation? I certainly would not mind if her Epipen was used to help someone out, possibly save someone’s life.

I’ve also often thought that restaurants should all have an Epipen or two on hand, just in case. You really never know when an allergy could manifest. So many times people have a first reaction later in life, or simply don’t have their medicine on them. Wouldn’t it be worth it to have an Epipen or two around, just like a fire extinguisher or first aid kit? They are such a simple means of halting a reaction and possibly saving a life.

We know we live in a very litigious society, and everyone is afraid of a lawsuit. Who wants to be the person that stabs someone else with an auto injector full of epinephrine? But someone may just need it and not have a prescription – wouldn’t it be worth it?

With this new bill hopefully passing into a law in Chicago, maybe it will spread to other areas beyond schools. However, what a great place to start. Unfortunately, the reason behind this bill is a tragic one. Last year in December, a thirteen year old girl died in Chicago of anaphylaxis after eating food cooked in peanut oil. She was not given the injection.

Now this bill will only pertain to schools and school nurses, and a school  nurse will be needed to administer the shot. A few other states already have this ruling, including Massachusetts and Kansas. Maybe in the near future we will see this country wide and along with the need for donations of band aids, rubber gloves and extra clothes in school clinics, there will also be a call for Epipens. I, for one, would be more than happy to supply an extra Epipen if it could save someone’s life.


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