SACRAMENTO, CA—In an effort to combat the California’s rising rate of drug overdose
fatalities, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) introduced AB 1535, to greatly expand access to the opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone at pharmacies throughout the state.
The bill would permit pharmacists to furnish the lifesaving drug to family members; people who may be in contact with a person at risk of an opiate overdose, or to the patient requesting it, pursuant to guidelines to be developed by the state’s boards of pharmacy and medicine.
"California’s overdose crisis remains one of the state’s most serious health problems," said Bloom. “Pharmacists are highly trained, highly trusted healthcare professionals. This bill makes it easier for them to help prevent a fatal drug overdose,” he added.
“Making naloxone more widely available will save lives,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “When parents and spouses can quickly and securely purchase the antidote to an opiate overdose at their neighborhood pharmacy, everyone benefits.”
In 2009, more than 3,500 Californians died unnecessarily from an accidental drug overdose. Research published by the US Centers for Disease Control and other federal health agencies shows that laypersons with naloxone can immediately reverse a potentially fatal overdose in addition to calling paramedics.
“We applaud Assemblymember Bloom for his proactive approach to reducing deaths and injuries resulting from opioid overdoses,” said Jon R. Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, co-sponsoring the bill with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers and AB 1535 will make it easier for them to furnish this life-saving drug to patients who need it.”
Naloxone was approved for use in the 1971 and has been used in emergency rooms and ambulances for decades. It is non-narcotic, non-abusable and works within minutes to restore breathing in people overdosing on opiate drugs such oxycodone, hydrocodone and heroin.
“The federal government and virtually every major health organization agree: naloxone is safe, it works and it needs to be more readily available to people” said Ralston. “Assemblymember Bloom’s bill is a simple, low-cost way to help make it happen.”
Advocates for addiction recovery and drug treatment cheered the bill as a significant development for parents of children struggling with substance abuse.
“As a mother of two sons who struggle with addictive illness, one of whom almost died of an accidental overdose, I feel that it is my right and responsibility to have naloxone readily available in my medicine cabinet, because every moment counts in saving a precious life,” said Gretchen Burns Bergman, founder of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing).
Denise Cullen, co-founder of GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) said, “This expansion of access to naloxone will be an incredible lifesaver for those families going through what mine did for 12 years with a child struggling with substance use disorder. Putting naloxone in the hands of those who need it most as quickly as possible will be a positive, proactive step toward ending this epidemic. We lost our son to an overdose. No California family should ever have to endure that preventable tragedy.”