Overdoses from opiate prescription drugs like Percocet and Oxycontin have tripled in Colorado in the last 10 years, and account for as many annual deaths as car accidents. Naloxone is a prescription medication that reverses the effect of opiates in the brain, stopping a near-fatal overdose in its tracks —a literal life saver.
Colorado’s Harm Reduction Action Center began a naloxone distribution program in May 2012 with the support of Dr. Jane Kennedy, a Denver-area addictions psychiatrist. The program has since trained and prescribed naloxone to over 100 individuals, and has already saved 30 lives. But more needed to be done, becauseColorado state law barred providers from prescribing naloxone in the name of “third party” individuals — most often the family, friends, and service providers of opiate users — who are often in the best position to witness and respond to an overdose.
Last winter Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D., (D-Denver) convened physicians, pharmacists, the Harm Reduction Action Center, the Drug Policy Alliance, and many other stakeholders to address this issue. And after multiple conversations about physician liability, the Colorado Medical Society was able to actively support legislation granting third parties access to naloxone. Soon after, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, and Colorado Psychiatric Society signed on as official sponsors of Senate Bill 13-014 — Colorado’s third-party naloxone bill.
You can read more about the bill and its signing at the Network for Public Health Law blog.