AUGUSTA – Despite strong, bipartisan support in the Legislature, Governor Paul LePage issued a veto of Speaker of the House Sara Gideon’s legislation, LD 1892, An Act To Clarify the Prescribing and Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists. The bill will allow for people under the age of 21 to have access to the life-saving drug Narcan. Veto letter available here.
Speaker Gideon released the following statement:
“Overdoses can strike anyone at any time and in every opportunity, we should be trying to save every life possible. We can no longer ignore the impact of this epidemic, disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment and clearly, we can no longer delay access to life-saving medicine. Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on this crisis. My colleagues in the legislature are well aware of this and I urge them to override this veto.”
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. 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. Gideon immediately began working on legislation to override this action.
A public hearing on the change was held April 5, with many speaking against the over-21 restriction including the Health Equity Alliance, the Maine Medical Association and number of certified drug and rehabilitation experts. In addition, members of the Legislatures Health and Human Services Committee, the Opioid Task Force and Preble Street Resource Center all submitted written comment in favor of lowering the age of dispensation. The public comment period closed April 15.
The Pharmacy Board met Monday, April 23 and, after public outcry, adopted draft amended rules that would remove the governor’s request of increasing the age limit. However, Gideon’s legislation would eliminate the limitation be in statute, ensuring that the Pharmacy Board and the governor can no longer delay access to this life-saving drug.