Utah Senate OKs emergency drug to counter overdoses
Naloxone • People at risk for overdose complications could have it on hand.
Published: March 7, 2014 10:58AM
Updated: March 7, 2014 09:43PM

The Senate gave final approval Friday to allowing doctors to prescribe to a third party a drug that counters the effects of opiate overdoses — which often are needed before paramedics or an ambulance could arrive.

The Senate voted 27-0 to pass HB119, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. It would allow caregivers and family members of people using opiates to receive prescriptions to have Naloxone present in case of an overdose, and administer it.

“Last year, over 500 Utahns died of drug overdoses. And of those, most of them were prescription drugs… Most of those were not suicides, they were accidental,” said Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, an emergency room doctor who is the Senate sponsor of the bill.

He said the drug “has very little downside and a life-saving upside” if it can be administered quickly, adding that by the time an ambulance arrives it is usually too late.

He said the drug is fairly safe, and even in cases when large doses were given it has not caused damage. He likened it to giving glucose to counter a diabetic receiving too much insulin.

He said he envisions prescriptions when someone receiving pain medication is at high risk for a variety of reasons, including having other health problems that raise the risk of respiratory arrest.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, who lost a stepson to an overdose, introduced the bill. She also introduced a companion bill, HB11, that would grant limited immunity for reporting drug overdoses, to encourage people with a victim to call for help without fear of facing drug charges.

That companion bill passed earlier and has also been sent to the governor for his signature.