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Idaho Bill Would Let Family, Friends Of Opioid Users Get Overdose-Countering Drug

File photo. Naloxone can reverse the effects of a painkiller or heroin overdose a few minutes.

A bill headed to the Idaho House would allow friends and family members of opioid drug users to obtain medication to counteract overdoses.

Oregon and Washington already have similar laws on the books.

The drug is known as an “opioid antagonist,” or more technically, naloxone. Doctors say it can reverse the effects of a painkiller or heroin overdose a few minutes after it’s injected or inhaled.

The effect is temporary, but Republican Rep. Christy Perry said a couple of doses buy enough time for emergency responders to arrive. She’s sponsoring a bill that would allow people to get a prescription for naloxone intended for someone else.

“I could say ‘I’m not the drug user, but I have a child who I think is. He’s overdosed a couple times,’” she said.

The bill would also give pharmacists authority to prescribe the drug. Insurers in Idaho worried they would be on the hook to pay for medications for people they don’t cover. But lawmakers decided to send the bill to the House floor.

Lawmakers hesitated over whether the bill should be amended to mandate training on how to administer the drug, but decided it would be cumbersome for the state or for pharmacists to make sure everyone goes through a training course.

“Those to me are small things that are not worth putting in the way to getting this drug out to save a life,” Republican Rep. John Vander Woude said.

Pharmacists would provide information when they dispense it. The Department of Health and Welfare would also set up an online education program, under the bill.

The cheapest form of the drug is between $15 and $20, according to testimony in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Under current law, doctors can prescribe naloxone for a patient’s use, but it would be illegal for that patient to give the drug to someone else.

Elisha Figueroa, administrator of Idaho’s Office of Drug Policy, told lawmakers naloxone is not addictive and is not harmful if accidentally taken by someone who’s not suffering from an overdose. The drug works by reversing the depressive effects opioids have on the respiratory system.

Figueroa said some researchers have found a small percentage of people can become violent or aggressive 10 minutes after being given the drug.

“We believe that the benefits outweigh the risks of these medications,” said Figueroa. She noted one survey ranked Idaho fourth in the nation for per capita pain medication abuse.

The bill includes a provision that would shield the person who administers naloxone from liability under Idaho’s Good Samaritan law -- if that person calls 911.