Ohio House okays easing access to heroin overdose drug

Naloxone saves lives from opiate overdoses. Credit: Mannaz via Flickr
Naloxone saves lives from opiate overdoses. Credit: Mannaz via Flickr
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Last year, lawmakers made it easier for friends and family of addicts to access naloxone. This measure would slash requirements for doctor oversight when it’s dispensed.

Public health workers say that would allow treatment programs to stretch limited resources in a time of widespread opiate abuse.

"It’s less funding they have to put forth to pay for a physician," said Emily Metz, who manages MetroHealth Medical Center’s naloxone distribution program, Project Dawn, in Cleveland.

Metz said right now, a doctor, physician's assistant or nurse practitioner must be present with a patient to prescribe the drug. Even though naloxone is considered safe and effective, health educators like her can't give it out.

"I actually was at a treatment center today, but was not able to give kits, just do the training," she said.

House Bill 4 would let doctors use "standing orders" to authorize trained pharmacists and health educators like Metz to dispense the drug themselves on an ongoing basis under certain conditions.

Metz said that would hugely increase naloxone distribution by programs like Project Dawn.

"That would enable us to increase our operating hours not from just one day a week, but Monday through Friday," she said.

The pharmacy provision would help rural residents without specialized programs like hers nearby, Metz added. She said Project Dawn's outlets in Cleveland currently draw people from outlying counties, who travel long distances during limited open hours to get naloxone.

Metz said Project Dawn is poised to expand quickly if the measure becomes law.

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