Senate approves York Co. lawmaker’s bill expanding access to opioid anti-overdose drugs

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    The state Senate on Wednesday gave its unanimous approval to legislation allowing first-responders, including EMS workers, to leave a dose of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone or a comparable treatment with a caregiver for someone who has overdosed.

    The bill was one of two sponsored by state Sen. Kristin Phillips Hill, R-York, that sailed through the majority-Republican chamber.

    The other allows Medicaid managed care organizations to access the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which is intended to “limit and prevent prescription drug abuse and overuse,” Phillips-Hill’s office said in a statement. That bill also gained unanimous approval.

    The bills now go to the state House for consideration.

    “I’m incredibly grateful for the support of my colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — as we look to fight this issue because opioid abuse affects every Senate district, every neighborhood and unfortunately, too many families both locally and across the state,” Phillips-Hill said in a statement. “We need to give every tool available to the people on the front lines of this battle, not only because the pain of losing a loved one, a friend, a coworker or a teammate is detrimental, but the societal costs of addiction are so great.”

    First created in 2014, the now five-year-old Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is paying measurable dividends.

    Physician usage of Pennsylvania’s prescription drug database leaped between 2016 and 2018, according to data from the American Medical Association.

    According to the AMA’s 2019 Opioid Progress Report, Pennsylvania physicians logged more than 17 million queries to the prescription drugs database in 2018, up from 12.7 million queries in 2017, and way up from 2.3 million queries in 2016 when the state moved to strengthen the program.

    “Pennsylvania’s [database] has basically stopped doctor shopping and allowed physicians to more easily identify patients who may have substance use disorder,” John Gallagher, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s opioid task force, said in a statement.

    The AMA data “showed that Pennsylvania physicians have written fewer opioid prescriptions for five straight years and have seen the fifth largest percentage drop nationally between 2013-18 (43 percent),” the state medical society said in a statement.

    Last week, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf renewed Pennsylvania’s statewide opioid disaster declaration for a sixth time. The action gives the state more leeway to combat the addiction crisis.

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press

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