The abuse and addiction to opioids is a global problem that is estimated to affect between 26.4 million and 36 million people worldwide. Of those addicted in the United States, 2.1 million people are addicted to prescription drugs and another 517,000 are addicted to heroin, according to estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Deaths in the United States - and Louisiana - related to opioid drug use have been rising since 1999, resulting in more deaths in 2014 than ever before. Data from the coroners and medical examiners in Louisiana reveal 100 deaths in this state in 2011 rising over time to 248 deaths in 2015. Preliminary data for the first six months of 2016 indicate we are on the same deadly trajectory.
Naloxone and other opioid antagonists are prescription drugs that produce rapid and dramatic reversals of life-threatening symptoms of opioid-related drug overdoses. Since time is of the essence in drug overdose cases, it is important the drugs be readily available to whoever might first encounter the overdose patient, be it family, caregiver, or first responders.
Act 370 of the 2016 Louisiana Legislature authorizes licensed medical practitioners to issue nonpatient-specific standing orders for the distribution of naloxone and other opioid antagonists, in lieu of patient-specific prescriptions for those drug products. The legislation also authorizes pharmacists to dispense or distribute naloxone and other opioid antagonists pursuant to those standing orders as provided by rules promulgated by the Board of Pharmacy.
During their August 10, 2016 meeting, the Board of Pharmacy took formal notice of the legislation, then adopted a proposed rule establishing the procedures for pharmacists to distribute naloxone and other opioid antagonists in response to those standing orders, and then adopted a Declaration of Emergency. The emergency declaration authorizes the Board to fix an immediate effective date for the proposed rule while the proposed rule is being promulgated to a final rule. Copies of the proposed rule and emergency declaration are available here.