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July 21, 2019

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Bill allows pharmacists to dispense opioid overdose antidotes without prescription


Ted S. Warren / AP

Tess Nishida, a pharmacist at the University of Washington, poses for a photo Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, holding a vial of Naloxone, which can be used to block the potentially fatal effects of an opioid overdose, at an outpatient pharmacy at the university.

The state Senate is taking up a bill allowing pharmacists to dispense opioid overdose antidotes without a prescription.

Assembly Bill 428 would have put overdose medicine in schools as well, but was amended to eliminate those provisions and their cost estimates. The amended bill passed out of the Assembly unanimously and received approval Wednesday from the Senate’s Committee on Health and Human Services.

Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services that sponsored the bill, says the current version of the proposed law reflects the original intent of the bill.

“This has been a priority for myself,” he said. “I know it’s been a priority for the governor and many other people the last few years in regard to the prescription drug abuse problem that has gone on, and this is just one more way of helping at least in those immediate, emergent situations to keep people from dying.”

Sprinkle said he has heard support for the bill from the Board of Pharmacy.

“This bill, once passed, will help to save people’s lives in an emergent situation,” Sprinkle says.

Sprinkle said reforms from the 2015 session opened up access to Narcan for first responders and some others. Family members and friends of drug users currently need a prescription to obtain naloxone from a pharmacist.

“This is the critical component that we didn’t succeed in last session that really brings it forward,” Assemblywoman Robin Titus, R-Wellington, said during a previous hearing on the bill. “That was the intention last time to prevent these horrible and unnecessary overdoses that we see so much of.”

Lawmakers in 2015 also decided that “Good Samaritans” who administer the drug and call 911 would be protected.

Sprinkle says it’s important for people to still call 911 after reviving someone from an overdose. Opioids leave the system slower than the overdose antagonist will, he said, and people could again fall unconscious or stop breathing without medical attention.

Pharmacists will still have to give a consultation to people obtaining overdose reversal drugs, helping them understand what the drug does, why it’s important to give it and why it’s important to call 911 afterward.

“This way they also get into the system, they can get to the emergency room, they can start getting some of the ancillary help through social work and others to start really addressing what caused them to get to that state to begin with,” Sprinkle said Wednesday. “It’s a really important life-saving drug, and to acquire it you must still go through two-, three-, four-minute consultation with the pharmacist, which is already required in statute.”

Sprinkle and others have said that despite the concern that increasing availability of overdose medication might spur drug use, having this option can save lives.

The bill now heads to a full Senate vote, where approval would send it to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature.