Committees of both the House and Senate have approved legislation clearing the way for pharmacists to issue prescriptions for medications treating drug overdoses to persons “at risk” of an overdose or their relatives and friends, reports the Kingsport Times-News. The bill (HB2225) is scheduled for a House floor vote Thursday.
If the bill is passed and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Health would be required to draft a “Collaborative Pharmacy Practice Agreement,” in which standards and parameters would be outlined for the dispensing of medication by pharmacists.
Pharmacists would also be required under the bill to complete an opioid antagonist training program within the previous two years to dispense the medication. The bill would also establish immunity from disciplinary or adverse administrative actions as well as immunity from civil liability if the medication is dispensed properly.
The bill comes at a time when more Tennesseans are becoming hooked on prescription pain killers than ever before. According to a study conducted by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Subtance Abuse in November 2015, prescription pain killers are the drug of choice among all age groups in Tennessee.
Overdose deaths in the state have been on the rise for years. According to TDH, 1,166 people died from drug overdoses while that number increased by almost 100 in 2014. Sullivan County saw 44 overdose deaths in 2014, the latest data available.
Steps have been taken in Tennessee to allow greater access to opioid antagonists. In 2014, doctors were allowed to prescribe them to patients. Emergency responders have been giving the drug to overdosing patients for years.