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Schumer, ‘America's Sexiest Doctor' Call for Lifesaving Drug on Planes

An allergy doctor says the drug should be in medical kits on planes to keep passengers safe

A lifesaving drug is not required on flights due to a shortage. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and “America’s Sexiest Doctor” want to change that. 

Schumer has teamed up with Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, People magazine's “America’s Sexiest Doctor,” to call on the Federal Aviation Administration to require EpiPens on all flights. Epinephrine, the only treatment for anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction, is presently exempt from flight medical kits through 2020. EpiPen is the brand name of an auto-injectable device that delivers epinephrine. 

"Doctor Mike" saved a passenger’s life earlier this month by administering injectable epinephrine on a Delta flight from New York City to Tel Aviv. The physician, who practices at Overlook Family Practice in Summit, New Jersey, treated a passenger who did not have known allergies but experienced an allergic reaction in midair, as reported by The New York Post. Schumer said the passenger experiencing anaphylactic shock could have lost his life if not for the lifesaving drug and the doctor onboard who knew how to administer the kit.

The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, insect stings, medications and latex, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. While EpiPen is a well known brand of epinephrine, there are other medical brands that provide the same treatment as EpiPen. There's been an industry shortage of the drug for about a year, which caused the Federal Drug Administration to extend EpiPen expiration dates to cover shortages last August. 

“To keep the traveling public safe in the air, the FAA must update their medical standards and enhance outdated regulations by mandating epinephrine and EpiPens onboard all flights. Most planes are ill-equipped to deal with allergic reactions, and as a result, flight attendants often defer to doctors or medical professionals on board to quickly manage situations that arise while in the air, and that is why Dr. Mike stepped in,” Schumer said.

The FAA responded to a request for comment and said by email that the injectable epinephrine (not epiPen) is required in a flight’s emergency medical kit.

"However, due to current shortages of both injectable epinephrine and EpiPens the airlines have an exemption from carrying it. The exemption terminates on Jan. 31, 2020 unless it is superseded or rescinded earlier,” according to FAA Spokesperson Kathleen Bergen.

Schumer said Sunday that “if the status quo continues, the airlines will not have to stock epinephrine or EpiPens on planes until 2020 at the soonest, and that simply cannot fly.”

Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergy doctor based in New York City, says the drug should be in medical kits on planes to keep passengers safe.

"We know from elaborate research that epinephrine works fastest and the best delivery vehicle is injectable," said Bassett. "Whatever they (the airlines) can do to make it available, that's a good idea."

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