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NEAL, GUINTA, COMSTOCK INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO COMBAT HEROIN AND PRESCRIPTION DRUG OVERDOSES IN THE UNITED STATES

April 17, 2015
Press Release

The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015 addresses America’s  growing Heroin epidemic

(WASHINGTON) Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Congressman Frank Guinta (R-NH) and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation in the United States House of Representatives this week to help prevent prescription drug and heroin overdoses in United States. The rising tide of drug addiction across America is deeply troubling.  Every day, 120 people die as a result of drug overdoses fueled by prescription painkillers, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency rooms for the misuse or abuse of illegal drugs. According to The Washington Post, “overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides. Fatal overdoses from opiate medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone have quadrupled since 1999, accounting for an estimated 16,651 deaths in 2010.”

In the United States, prescription opioid abuse costs were roughly $55.7 billion in 2007. Of this amount, 46% was attributed to workplace Costs (e.g., lost productivity), 45% to healthcare costs (e.g., abuse treatment), and 9% to criminal justice costs. The absolute scale of this drug epidemic is dramatic: nearly 420,040 emergency room visits each year are a result of opioid pain medication abuse.

Death from heroin and other opioid drugs may be prevented if the victim is administered an opioid overdose drug, such as Naloxone (aka Narcan), in a timely manner. Several states, including Massachusetts, have established programs allowing for the dispensation of opioid overdose drugs by non-medical personnel, including first responders, family members, and friends. These innovative programs have helped save thousands of lives.

However, the willingness of medical and non-medical personnel to administer opioid overdose drugs may be deterred by civil liability. And the willingness of physicians to prescribe opioid overdose medications to persons other than a patient may also be deterred by other court enforced action.

The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015 would exempt from civil liability emergency administration of opioid overdose-reversing drugs, like naloxone, by people who prescribe or are prescribed them. When am opioid overdose occurs, administration of an opioid Reversal drug is necessary to prevent death. But it must occur within a certain window of time before the chance of survival is lost. This is a time of quick action, not deliberations over a potential lawsuit. First responders and other “Good Samaritans” who have the means to treat an opioid overdose should not be dealt this burden.  A summary of the bill and a list of endorsements is attached.

“Prescription drug and heroin overdoses have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In the past ten years, opioid prescriptions have doubled. Every day, 120 people overdose on illegal drugs and prescription painkillers. Drugs like naloxone provide the means to counteract the effects of opioid overdoses. This is a life-saving treatment, but many are deterred from providing these medications for fear of litigation. This bipartisan legislation hopes to correct that resistance immediately,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

“Heroin and other illicit drugs are now killing more Granite Staters than traffic accidents, bringing into clear focus New Hampshire’s heroin emergency. This is unacceptable, and must be dealt with immediately. I have been working with and speaking to stakeholders on this issue from first responders, to mental health and substance abuse counselors among others to identify solutions to eliminate this growing problem. This bipartisan bill is one part of an overall strategy to tackle this by providing protection to first responders educated in administering Narcan to reverse the effects of an overdose, saving the lives of countless individuals in the process,” said Congressman Frank Guinta.  

“This public safety legislation will help save lives and get opioid reversing drugs into the hands of first responders and ‘Good Samaritans’ so they can stop the deadly effects of heroin when an overdose occurs,” said Congresswoman Comstock. “Earlier this month I joined Loudon County Sheriff Mike Chapman in the formation of the regional Heroin Operations Team in Northern Virginia. Heroin is an increasing problem in our community and the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015 will provide an additional tool to our first responders to deal with this on the frontlines. A Senate companion bill has been cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).”