Legislation requiring doctors to prescribe an opioid antidote alongside opioid prescriptions for pain management in high-risk patients was recently signed into law in New Jersey.
Under the law, any doctor that prescribes opioids to patients with a history of substance abuse, a daily opioid prescription greater than 90 morphine milligram equivalents, or a concurrent benzodiazepine prescription will be required to prescribe an FDA-approved product for overdoses.
Naloxone (typically sold under the Narcan and Evzio brands) is one such prescription. The product is designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses.
The bill found wide support, for primary sponsors Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), John Armato (D-2), and Anthony Verrelli (D-15), alongside Republican State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25).
Adding to the Toolkit in Fighting Opioids
The prescriptions were seen as a way in continuing the fight in the opioid epidemic, which has taken a toll on the Garden State.
“It is always a tragedy whenever lives are lost to drug overdoses. It is even more tragic when you consider just how many of those lives could have been saved through access to overdose-reversal products,” said Vainieri Huttle in a press release with her Assembly colleagues after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law.
Nearly 90% of the 2,900 reported drug overdose death in New Jersey in 2018 involved opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The group found doctors in the state wrote 38.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons, which was below the U.S. average of 51.4 prescriptions.
“We need to do everything in our power to help give people the resources they need to combat accidental overdoses,” added Vainieri Huttle. “When it comes to overdoses—every second is absolutely critical. Prescribing Naloxone to at-risk patients taking opioid pain-killers for chronic or acute pain will ensure this life-saving product is immediately available in the event of an emergency.”
Bucco Lauds Passage, Compares to Other States
State Sen. Bucco lauded the passage of the bill, and noted New Jersey was joining other states leading the charge against the epidemic.
“Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the nation, and the pandemic has only increased the problem in the Garden State,” the Senator argued.
Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington all require co-prescribing. Additionally, in California and Ohio, prescribers are tasked with offering naloxone co-prescriptions in certain circumstances.
“The same approach has proven effective in other states, and it can make a difference in New Jersey, as well,” he said.