New Law: Californians Will Be Able to Buy Overdose Antidote in Pharmacies Upon Request
SACRAMENTO, CA—Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s pharmacy naloxone bill (AB 1535), which will permit pharmacists to furnish the opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone hydrochloride upon request. Previously, naloxone was available only by prescription from a healthcare provider or from a handful of naloxone distribution programs throughout the state. The bill, sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Pharmacists Association, was strongly supported by health and drug treatment organizations, as well as parents’ groups.
“I am very pleased that the Governor has signed AB 1535 into law. AB 1535 will have a real and immediate impact on reducing overdose deaths in California and will empower families throughout the state to access this life-saving drug,” said the bill’s author Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica). “The bill has received overwhelming support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. With the signing of AB 1535, I am encouraged to seek out additional innovative policies aimed at ending our drug overdose crisis,” he added.
The new law will permit pharmacists to furnish the life-saving 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. It also ensures education and training for both the pharmacist and the consumer.
“Lives can be lost in the minutes waiting for an officer or an ambulance to arrive with naloxone. This makes it much easier for caregivers and family members to keep naloxone on hand for use in those critical moments,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Expanding pharmacy access to naloxone in California reflects the movement nationally to make naloxone more widely available,” she added.
While California was an early leader in drafting legislation permitting sales of naloxone without a prescription, the national effort 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.
Naloxone, also called Narcan, was approved by the FDA in 1971 and has been used to reverse opiate overdoses in emergency rooms and ambulances for decades. It is non-abusable and works within minutes to restore breathing in people overdosing on opiate drugs such oxycodone and heroin. It can be administered either intramuscularly via injection or as a nasal spray.
AB 1535 was 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.