- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A variety of businesses could soon keep a supply of epinephrine injectors to be used in case of life-threatening allergic reactions under a Republican bill moving through the Legislature.

Schools are already allowed to keep a supply of the auto-injectors. The bill would add camps, colleges, day care facilities, restaurants and other businesses to the list of entities allowed to carry and administer the drug. The auto-injector is used to treat anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that causes constricted airways that make it difficult to breathe.

Co-author Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said the measure is meant to be a “logical extension” of the existing legislation. Vukmir, who was a nurse and leads first aid training courses, said the establishments should get legal protection to administer the drug to people who need it.

Under the bill, people who give the drug and physicians who treated the person afterward would be covered by the state’s Good Samaritan law and protected from legal action. The bill would require establishments that carry the drug to offer a training course to anyone who would give the drug.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that about 50 million Americans are affected by nasal allergies. That’s as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of kids. More than 20 million others have other allergies. The college reports that allergic diseases are the third most prevalent chronic illness in children and the fifth most chronic in all ages.

Bill co-author Rep. James Edming, R-Glen Flora, said he owns a convenience store in Glen Flora and wishes he could provide support to a customer experiencing an allergic reaction in his shop.

“If I could spend $200 or $300 on something that could save someone’s life, it would be well worth it,” Edming said. “Anyone looking out for the betterment of mankind should be able to have these. It’s just a bill of good American patriotism.”

Vukmir said she is planning three amendments to the bill at this point, based on concerns she heard in a public hearing last week. One amendment would require that training programs tell trainees to call 911 when administering the drug. Another would allow doctors and others who are trained to administer the drug in a public place without fear of legal action. And the third would make sure establishments that choose not to carry the injectors would not be held liable.

But Ruth Simpson, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Association for Justice, said the group opposes the bill because it could pose a danger as it provides legal immunity to the health care practitioner and pharmacist who prescribe the drugs.

Vukmir said the auto-injectors that contain epinephrine would likely not have a negative impact if a person wasn’t suffering an allergic reaction. She said for most people it would just speed up their heart rate, but for some with previously existing conditions it could pose additional danger.

Edming and Vukmir said they hope the bill will pass the Legislature and reach Gov. Scott Walker for his signature by the end of June.

“We are in bee sting season, and pollen,” Edming said. “If we can save one life this summer it will be well worth it.”

The bill must be approved by Senate and Assembly committees and passed by each chamber before it reaches the governor.

Walker’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to request for comment asking if Walker would sign the bill.

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Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bydanaferguson .

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