Local pharmacist gives insight on Missouri opiate overdose bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri legislature will wrap up its session by the end of this week, and one local pharmacist weighing in on a measure dealing with prescriptions for patients, House Bill 1568

The Missouri General Assembly gave final approval Tuesday afternoon to legislation sponsored by state Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville, that is meant to provide lifesaving support for heroin and opiate overdose victims. By a vote of 147-2, the House gave overwhelming bipartisan support to HB 1568 to allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone, which is an antidote for heroin overdoses, to individuals.

Jefferson City Apothecary head pharmacist Uldis Prionis said the bill would let a physician prescribe naloxone for a third party to give to someone having an opiate overdose.

"That's what the drug is for, to save lives from opiate overdoses," Prionis said. 

Prionis said he supports the measure.

"In some states, it's already over-the-counter," Prionis said. "In other words, you can get it without a prescription at all, but I think that might be a little risky." 

Prionis said he'd rather see it go through a physician. That way, the physician can teach the recipient how to give the shots. 

Prionis said he thinks the status of prescription access in Missouri is "just about right." 

"There are some states that okay a pharmacist to refill birth control pills without going through a doctor," Prionis said. "People have very easy access to drugs. It's not a problem at all." 

Prionis said the only limits on people right now are what their insurance will pay for.

He said he also likes a recent measure passed by the Senate which would allow patients to request a waiver from having to try several drugs before insurers agree to pay for medication the patients want to use.

"There is nothing that I know of in the state of Missouri that requests a waiver or allows a patient to get a waiver," Prionis said. "If it's not on the insurance company's formulary, then patient has to try one or two depending on which insurance company is first before they will pay for the other one." 

Lynch has successfully advocated on behalf of overdose victims during his time in the legislature and was responsible for legislation in 2014 that put Naloxone in the hands of qualified first responders. He said the goal with HB 1568 is to place the medication in the hands of family or friends who can save the life of a loved one who overdoses on opiates.

"By passing this bill into law we will put a safe, non-addictive antidote in the hands of people who can use it to save the lives of those they love. We have already seen this policy change dramatically reduce the rate of opiate-related deaths in other states, and I am confident we will see the same positive results here in Missouri," Lynch said. 

House Bill 1568 now heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law.