Those seeking to provide drugs that counteract opioid overdoses are a step closer to being able to do so without liability.
The Alaska House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that removes legal barriers for those providing the medication, which blocks the effects of an overdose to allow a patient more time to get medical help.
Introduced in the last session by Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), SB 23 provides immunity to those prescribing Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan.
“A person is not liable for civil damages resulting from an act or omission in prescribing or providing an opioid overdose drug to a person at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose or to a family member, friend, caregiver, or other person,” the bill states.
The bill passed unanimously, 36-0.
The state of Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula have seen a spike in opioid use in the form of heroin over the last several years along with an increase in heroin-related deaths. From 2008 to 2013, 72 people in the state died with heroin listed as either the main or contributing cause, according to a 2015 report released by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
The bill has been amended since it passed the Senate last year, and so has to make its way through the Senate again for final approval before it goes to Gov. Bill Walker’s desk to be signed.
Some Fred Meyer pharmacies in the Lower 48 have adopted a pilot program to allow their pharmacists to prescribe Naloxone after undergoing some training. Melissa Hansen, pharmacy sales manager for Fred Meyer, said the chain is seeking to move the pilot program into its Alaska pharmacy locations once the bill is signed by the governor and the state’s Board of Pharmacy settles on its rules and regulations.
“That’s definitely our plan,” she said, adding that the program is “in four states, and every state we’re in is totally different.”
Those who wish to obtain the drugs will first have to fill out an intake form, after which pharmacists will run the prescription, Hansen said.
“What we do is we’ll dispense Naloxone and Narcan to either a … user or somebody we would say is at risk for witnessing an overdose,” she said.
Those purchasing the drugs also must undergo consultations with the pharmacists, who will be trained to coach friends and family on how to administer the drug and how to recognize an overdose, she said.
“We know that this is a big problem in a lot of communities around the country and so we want to be part of the solution,” Hansen said.
The timeframe for when the pilot program could make its way into Alaska’s Fred Meyer locations depends on how long it takes the bill to make it to the governor’s desk and on how long the Board of Pharmacy takes to identify its rules for pharmacist training, she said.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.