California Poised to Lead the Nation in Innovative Overdose Prevention Effort
Strong Bipartisan Support Delivers California’s ‘Pharmacy Naloxone’ Bill to Governors Desk
SACRAMENTO, CA — Yesterday, the California legislature passed Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s important drug overdose prevention bill (AB 1535), which would permit pharmacists to furnish the opiate overdose antidote naloxone, pursuant to procedures developed by the Board of Pharmacy and the Medical Board of California. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
“The bipartisan support of the Legislature is gratifying and will directly help many California families,” said Assemblymember Bloom (D-Santa Monica). “As the bill heads to the Governor’s desk, I am committed to continuing our efforts to stop the epidemic of overdose deaths.”
While California was an early leader in drafting legislation permitting sales of naloxone without a prescription, the movement to expand access to the overdose antidote can be seen in other states including Washington, Rhode Island and New Mexico, where naloxone is becoming increasingly accessible to patients without prescription and via collaborative practice agreements between pharmacists and physicians. New York and Vermont recently passed similar legislation.
In addition to expanding access to naloxone, California also has a ‘911 Good Samaritan’ law, which encourages people to call for emergency assistance at the scene of an overdose without fearing arrest or prosecution for minor drug law violations.
“This bill reaching the Governor is a triumph for all Californians who love someone at risk of an overdose,” said Meghan Ralston, Harm Reduction Manager of bill co-sponsor the Drug Policy Alliance. “California has thousands of pharmacies, and lives can be lost in the minutes waiting for a police officer or ambulance to arrive with naloxone to reverse an overdose. This would make it easier for caregivers and family members to keep naloxone on hand for use in those critical moments."
Naloxone is a safe, generic, non-narcotic drug, approved by the FDA in 1971. It has been used in ambulances and emergency rooms for decades. In recent years, it has become more widely available, largely in response to the growing opiate overdose crisis across the US. It can be administered as a nasal spray via an atomizer or as an intramuscular injection. It works within minutes to reverse the effects of opiate drugs such as heroin and oxycodone, but has no effect if administered to someone not overdosing on an opiate.
“It's a model that can be followed by other states,” said Ralston. “This approach reduces some of the traditional constraints that make it time-consuming or difficult to implement pharmacy sales of naloxone directly to the consumer. It represents a quantum leap in overdose prevention in California.”
The bill remained unopposed throughout its movement through the Legislature and benefited from unanimous, bipartisan support in committee hearings.
AB 1535 is supported by a long list of public health organizations, drug treatment providers and advocacy groups including: California Pharmacists Association (co-sponsor); Drug Policy Alliance (co-sponsor); California Narcotic Officers’ Association; Medical Board of California; California Hospital Association; California Society of Addiction Medicine; A New PATH; Addiction Research and Treatment; Amity Foundation; Bay Area Addiction Recovery Treatment; Behind the Orange Curtain; Broadway Treatment Center; Broken No More; California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, Inc.; California Mental Health Directors Association; California Opioid Maintenance Providers; California Retailers Association; California United for a Responsible Budget; Center for Living and Learning ; County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators Association of California; CRI-HELP, Inc.; Drug and Alcohol Addiction Awareness and Prevention Program; Families ACT!; Fred Brown Recovery Services; Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center; Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing; Health Officers Association of California; Health Right 360; Hillview Mental Health Center; Homeless Health Care Los Angeles; Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission; In Depth; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse; Los Angeles Community Action Network; Los Angeles County HIV Drug & Alcohol Task Force; Mary Magdalene Project; National Federation of Independent Business; Not One More; Paramedics Plus; Paving the Way Foundation; Phoenix House of Los Angeles; Primary Purpose Sober Living Homes; Safer Alternatives thru Networking & Education; San Fernando Recovery Center; SHIELDS For Families; Soberspace; Solace.