Ensuring Access to Albuterol in Schools: From Policy to Implementation. An Official ATS/AANMA/ALA/NASN Policy Statement

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2021 Sep 1;204(5):508-522. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202106-1550ST.


Rationale: For children with asthma, access to quick-relief medications is critical to minimizing morbidity and mortality. An innovative and practical approach to ensure access at school is to maintain a supply of stock albuterol that can be used by any student who experiences respiratory distress. To make this possible, state laws allowing for stock albuterol are needed to improve medication access.Objectives: To provide policy recommendations and outline steps for passing and implementing stock albuterol laws.Methods: We assembled a diverse stakeholder group and reviewed guidelines, literature, statutes, regulations, and implementation documents related to school-based medication access. Stakeholders were divided into two groups-legislation and implementation-on the basis of expertise. Each group met virtually to review documents and draft recommendations. Recommendations were compiled and revised in iterative remote meetings with all stakeholders.Main Results: We offer several recommendations for crafting state legislation and facilitating program implementation. 1) Create a coalition of stakeholders to champion legislation and implement stock albuterol programs. The coalition should include school administrators, school nurses and health personnel, parents, or caregivers of children with asthma, pediatric primary care and subspecialty providers (e.g., pulmonologists/allergists), pharmacists, health department staff, and local/regional/national advocacy organizations. 2) Legislative components critical for effective implementation of stock albuterol programs include specifying that medication can be administered in good faith to any child in respiratory distress, establishing training requirements for school staff, providing immunity from civil liability for staff and prescribers, ensuring pharmacy laws allow prescriptions to be dispensed to schools, and suggesting inhalers with valved holding chambers/spacers for administration. 3) Select an experienced and committed legislator to sponsor legislation and guide revisions as needed during passage and implementation. This person should be from the majority party and serve on the legislature's health or education committee. 4) Develop plans to disseminate legislation and regulations/policies to affected groups, including school administrators, school nurses, pharmacists, emergency responders, and primary/subspecialty clinicians. Periodically evaluate implementation effectiveness and need for adjustments.Conclusions: Stock albuterol in schools is a safe, practical, and potentially life-saving option for children with asthma, whether asthma is diagnosed or undiagnosed, who lack access to their personal quick-relief medication. Legislation is imperative for aiding in the adoption and implementation of school stock albuterol policies, and key policy inclusions can lay the groundwork for success. Future work should focus on passing legislation in all states, implementing policy in schools, and evaluating the impact of such programs on academic and health outcomes.

Keywords: asthma; children; health policy; inhaler; medication.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / standards*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • School Health Services / standards*
  • United States


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Albuterol