In response to the increase in opioid addiction in New York and across the country in 2020, a Queens lawmaker passed a life saving bill to co-prescribe overdose antidotes with opioids.
Bill A336A, sponsored by Assemblyman Edward Braunstein and Senator Pete Harckham (S2966A), would require that medical professionals co-prescribe an antagonist like naloxone with new opioid prescription once annually when certain patient risk factors are present.
Currently naloxone hydrochloride is mainly used in emergency capacities to block the effects of opioids and reverse overdose. The bill would co-prescribe the drug to patients with a history of overdose or are prescribed a high dose or cumulative prescriptions that result in 90 morphine milligram equivalents or more per day, or those who concurrently use benzodiazepines or cumulative prescriptions that result in 90 morphine milligram equivalents or more per day, or who concurrently use benzodiazepines.
“In 2020, as we fought to contain one public health epidemic, another was quietly on the rise: Opioid abuse,” said Braunstein. “Increasing access to the antidote naloxone would not only save lives in New York and reduce emergency room admissions, but also open a critical dialogue between doctor and patient about the dangers associated with opioids and long-term use. I want to thank Senator Harckham for his partnership on this important issue.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 81,000 recorded drug overdoses in the country from May 2019 to May 2020, the highest ever recorded in a 12-month period. Data also showed that overdoses in the state increase by about 37 percent during the first eight months of 2020 year-over-year.
Approximately 440 New York City residents died due to accidental drug overdose — mostly opioid-related overdoses — between January and March of 2020, nearly 100 more deaths during the same time period in 2019.
“Ensuring access to naloxone is critical in stopping the sharp rise in opioid overdoses and this bill guarantees that naloxone will be available for those at the highest risk of overdose. Naloxone is an essential tool that can and should be used,” said Allegra Schorr, president of the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates of New York State (COMPA).
Several national and local support groups support the bill, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, American Pharmacist Association, New York State Association of County Health Officials and the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State.
If signed into law, New York would join at least 11 states that have enacted similar laws including New Jersey, Vermont, California and New Mexico.