Written by Kelsey Kresser
It is an exciting time for pharmacy in Ohio, as several bills have recently been introduced that have the potential to affect the future of pharmacy practice. One issue that has received a lot of attention is naloxone dispensing. As many are already aware, the opioid epidemic is a huge public health concern in Ohio and across the nation. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, which means our citizens are more likely to die from a drug overdose than a motor vehicle accident. This is simply unacceptable.
If a drug user overdoses, naloxone (Narcan) can be used to restore normal breathing and save his or her life. Current law in Ohio allows paramedics and first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, to carry the drug. In 2014, Governor John Kasich also signed House Bill 170 into law, which allowed physicians to prescribe naloxone to active drug users, family members, and friends of those who may be at risk.
Now House Bill 4 has been introduced to the Ohio General Assembly. HB 4 would allow pharmacists and pharmacy interns in Ohio to dispense naloxone without a prescription. The passage of this law will greatly increase access to this life-saving drug and help combat the opioid epidemic in Ohio. HB 4 has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously and is currently awaiting action in the Ohio Senate. If the bill is passed, Ohio would be the seventh state to allow pharmacists and pharmacy interns to dispense naloxone without a prescription. [Currently, California, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Rhode Island, and Vermont allow dispensing of naloxone without a prescription.]
This issue is very important to me as a student pharmacist not only because I am an active member in Generation Rx, but also because opioid misuse is likely to be a very important issue throughout my career. Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers and are instrumental members of the health care team. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give testimony in support of HB 4 to the Ohio Health and Aging Committee, and I was very encouraged by the feedback I received from Ohio’s representatives. Many legislators do not know the education pharmacists receive today, nor do they fully understand the scope of pharmacy practice. Students’ voices are powerful, and legislators listen to students who are passionate about their profession. I encourage student pharmacists across the country to be aware of the issue of naloxone dispensing, as it will likely affect many of us throughout our careers. I hope that by learning about HB 4, you are encouraged by the work that Ohio is doing to put pharmacists in position to combat the opioid epidemic.
Kelsey Kresser is a second-year Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy.