Bill Aims Reduce Prescription Drug Overdoses

Posted at 9:58 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 23:31:53-05

Tennessee lawmakers took a big step Wednesday in targeting prescription drug abuse in the state.

Senate Bill 2403 passed unanimously in the Senate, and will now head to the House Thursday for discussion.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Doug Overbey, a republican from Maryville, would give patients greater access to opioid antagonists by allowing pharmacists the authority to prescribe the drugs.  Antagonists are drugs that can stop an opioid from working and potentially save lives. 

The bill also specifies that pharmacists must complete an opioid antagonist training program approved by the Department of Heath to be able to dispense the medication.  It also gives pharmacists immunity from disciplinary action or civil liability as long as the drug is dispensed according to statewide rules.

“It is respectfully submitted, this legislation will expand patient access to a lifesaving medication and promote collaboration between pharmacists and other members of the multidisciplinary health team,” said Sen, Overbey.  “Senate Bill 2403 is a continuation of this chamber’s efforts to deal with abuse of prescription medication.”

“Personally, I think it’s a good thing because it increases access to a clearly needed service, and a service that is very important,” added Dr. Shawn Pruitt, Pharmacist at Pruitt's Discount Pharmacy in Nashville.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdoses every day in the United States.  Tennessee has the second highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country. 

At least 24 other states have enacted legislation, or introduced a bill giving pharmacists the authority to dispense these drugs.