REDMOND, OR -- The State Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday that aims to help deal with Oregon's opioid crisis. HB 4124, sponsored by Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), would allow pharmacists to administer the drug Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of some overdoses.
Dr. Eric Wattenburg, of Your Care
in Redmond, acknowledges heroin abuse is a serious problem in Central Oregon, but he is leery of taking a physician out of that equation. "Obviously, there will also need to be communication between the pharmacist and the treating physician. If they think there’s an issue, the physician certainly needs to be in the loop on this and not just have the pharmacist hand these out." He explains, "The problem is, Naloxone lasts maybe 30 minutes, where the opioid overdose effect can last six or eight hours. And, in somebody who would take the Naloxone and assume they took care of the problem, they will go right back into their opioid overdose and found dead. Whereas, if they didn’t have that available, they might have gone straight to the emergency department and been managed for that eight or 10 hour period to make sure they were through that episode."
But, Dr. Wattenburg cautiously optimistic that the bill will save lives. "It’s going to turn out to be the same argument we have with "Epi pens" for anaphylactic reactions. The Epi pen is life saving if used immediately when they’re having that reaction, but they still need to go to the emergency department or see their doctor."
HB 4124 includes other provisions, as well. Co-sponsor Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward (D-Beaverton) told colleagues, "The second thing it will do is link our existing prescription drug monitoring database into the emergency department information exchange, so emergency physicians will have an easier way to access whether people have recently received other opioid prescriptions. Both working together, [they] will significantly improve our ability to prevent unnecessary harm and deaths from opioid overdose." The bill now goes to the Governor for her signature.