Gideon: “Addiction knows no age”

AUGUSTA – Speaker of the Maine House Sara Gideon submitted LD 1892, An Act To Clarify the Prescribing and Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists, which will allow for people under the age of 21 to have access to the life-saving drug Narcan. Last month, after an unexplained six-month delay, the Board of Pharmacy finally took action on proposed rules related to the original legislation, LD 1594, An Act Regarding the Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists. However, due to a last-minute request by Governor LePage, the Board amended the proposed rules to raise the age the anti-overdose drug could be dispensed to 21, from 18 as originally written.

“Addiction knows no age and overdoses can strike anyone at any time,” said Speaker Gideon. “We lost 418 lives in 2017. We can no longer ignore the impact of this epidemic, disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment. This legislation seeks to redress the previous actions, which had no basis in medical research or expert opinion and was merely a petulant action at the behest of Governor LePage that directly contradicted legislative intent.”

The Board of Pharmacy’s public comment period on the rule change closed March 9th and they are set to take up the matter at their next meeting April 5. Members of the Legislatures Health and Human Services Committee, the Opioid Task Force and Preble Street Resource Center all submitted comment in favor of lowering the age of dispensation.

Gideon has secured a bipartisan group of co-sponsors on her legislation – Senator Woodsome (R-York), Sen. Dill (D- Penobscot), Sen. Saviello (R-Franklin), Rep. Chace (R-Durham), Rep. Fecteau (D-Biddeford), Rep. Head (R-Bethel), Rep. Hymanson (D-York), Rep. Sylvester (D-Portland), and  Rep. Vachon (R-Scarborough).

“It is unconscionable that it has now been close to two years that we have been trying to dispense this life-saving drug at our pharmacies,” said Gideon. “To truly start combatting this epidemic and reverse these horrific statistics, we need cooperation and leadership from all branches of government, including the Executive Branch. Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on this crisis. I am committed to continuing our work until we make real progress on this crisis.”

The legislation was referenced to Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development and a public hearing will be scheduled in the coming week.

BACKGROUND ON PHARMACY DISTRIBUTION OF NALOXONE

Lawmakers initially approved making naloxone available without a prescription in April 2016 (LD 1547, An Act To Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride). At the request of the Board of Pharmacy, the Legislature clarified the language with an amended bill with the intent that dispensation would begin soon after rulemaking. LD 1594, An Act Regarding the Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists, was passed by the Legislature in May of 2017.

The Maine Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously August 3, 2017 to approve rules related to LD 1594. For six months, the rules were stuck in uncertainty due a lack of action from the Executive Branch. Speaker Gideon issued a joint letter with Senator Troy Jackson urging the Board to take action on January 27, 2018. In February 2018, the rules were finally published and a period of public comment began, closing March 9, 2018.