A bill passed unanimously in the North Carolina Senate Tuesday would help prevent overdose deaths caused by heroin and some prescription narcotics, by making a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose more easily accessible at pharmacies statewide.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Louis Pate (R-Wayne), Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) and Tommy Tucker (R-Union) would authorize the state health director to issue a statewide ‘standing order’ allowing all N.C. licensed pharmacists to dispense the medication, called naloxone, to individuals who suspect a family member is at risk for an overdose.
Under current law, a pharmacy can’t dispense naloxone – and people cannot receive the drug – without a prescription or standing order from a doctor. The bill would make naloxone accessible to those experiencing overdose who do not have time to visit a doctor and obtain a prescription.
According to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), naloxone is safe, effective and harmless if administered to someone not experiencing an opioid overdose.
“Drug abuse is a dangerous epidemic that touches every corner of our state and wrecks lives every day,” said Pate. “This bill is one solution that can help save lives.”
More than 1,000 people died from overdose in North Carolina in 2015. But a 2013 law passed by the General Assembly increased access to naloxone for law enforcement and first responders – and a result, DHHS determined the number of overdose reversals actually surpassed the number of overdose deaths last year.
“This medication is proven effective in combatting drug overdoses, and I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will increase access to its life-saving benefits to more North Carolinians,” said Tucker.
If the bill becomes law, North Carolina would become the third state in the U.S. with this kind of standing order.