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Bill Would Allow Tennessee Pharmacists to Dispense Overdose Drug

That is if the state legislature can pass a bill allowing pharmacists to dispense an opioid antagonist to a person at risk of experiencing an opiate-related overdose or know of a family member, friend or other person at risk of experiencing an opiate-related overdose.

Opioid antagonists, such as Narcan or Naloxone, work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain without activating them in order to block or reverse the effects of opioids.

Senate Bill 2403, which was sponsored by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, cleared a big hurdle last week after the Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved the bill unanimously. As of Friday, a date for a vote in the Senate had not been set.

The measure cleared the Tennessee House Health Committee earlier this month and is scheduled for a vote in that chamber on Feb. 25.

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.

Overbey said this bill is a way to help tackle the prescription drug problem.

“Opioid antagonists are life-saving drugs, and the ultimate goal is not to have to use them, but rather to educate people so that prescription opioids are not misused or, in the case of those who are addicted, to get them into treatment to stop an overdose before it happens,” he said in a press release. “This is just one of a multifaceted approach to confronting this growing problem in our state.”

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