April 18, 2017 11:13 AM

The Louisiana Senate unanimously passed a measure on Monday that would expand the availability and affordability of epinephrine, an emergency drug injected to treat life-threatening allergic reactions.

Among the first legislation to be approved by the 2017 Legislature, Senate Bill 14 now goes to the House for consideration.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, approached the podium to speak about his measure, with a picture of his goddaughter, Amelia, in hand, whom he described as “nearly a perfect child.” A few years ago Amelia’s parents found out that she is severely allergic to insect bites and stings, Luneau recounted.

After an allergic reaction to ant bites sent her to the emergency room, Luneau said Amelia’s parents needed to keep on hand so-called EipPens, which they could use to inject the medication she would need in an emergency situation.

Over the last decade, Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen, has been hiking the price for the life-saving injectors. In 2016, the cost hit $600. Because of the way Louisiana law defines an “auto-injector,” Luneau said, the EpiPen is the only such device available to Louisianians, even though there are other less expensive devices on the market that can deliver the drug in a “safe and effective manner.”

SB14 would change that definition to include other types of devices.

“It’s going to help a lot of kids like Amelia when they get ant bites or when they get stings and the EpiPens are maybe out of the range for their parents to afford” said Lunea. “It gives them another opportunity to receive this life-saving medication.”

In other action Monday, lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 70 by Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, which would bump misbranding or adulteration of a drug with intent to defraud or mislead up to a felony offense, a move he said is intended to codify federal law.

SB70 would increase the penalty for a first offense from a sentence of up to a year or a fine of up to $1,000 to a sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to $10,000. For a second offense, the potential sentence would be increased to up to five years.

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