A bill to expand access to the overdose intervention drug naloxone was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence Friday, after passing both the house and the state senate unanimously.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can instantly save the life of a person who is overdosing. It was previously only available to medical personnel and public safety officials, and opioid drug users with a prescription from their doctor. Under the new law, Indiana doctors may issue prescriptions to “third parties” - family members or friends of people addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers. The bill also protects third parties who administer the medication during an overdose from prosecution.
Justin Phillips, president of the Indianapolis-based nonprofit Overdose Lifeline, lost a son to heroin in 2013. Phillips advised the bill’s author Sen. Jim Merritt, and testified during the legislative process. She says her organization will provide resources for families, including information on where they can fill a prescription.
“We’re working right now on generating a list of pharmacies that will actually have it in stock, because we don’t want to be too quick to promote and then have families not able to find it,” says Phillips.
After the list is compiled, Overdose Lifeline plans to launch a public awareness campaign.
The legislation also makes it easier for public safety departments and nonprofits to obtain naloxone. Previously, state law required a medical authority to authorize such a purchase. Now, they can buy directly from drug companies. Since naloxone became legal for first responders to use in Indiana in March of last year, nearly 100 lives have been saved by police and sheriff’s departments.
“The signing of this bill will save Hoosier lives,” Dr. Jerome Adams, Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health said in a press release from the Governor’s office. “Many overdoses happen in the presence of others, and readily available naloxone is a proven method for bystanders and loved ones [to] provide rescue assistance. While we diligently work to make headway on our state and nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, this bill will help keep Hoosiers alive in order to facilitate seeking treatment and again become healthy and productive members of society.”
More on heroin and naloxone in Indiana:
Law To Expand Access To Overdose Antidote Clears Hurdle in Indiana House
With Heroin Overdose Deaths Rising, Families Clamor for Access to A Life-Saving Drug