COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Last year, first responders in South Carolina administered naloxone thousands of times.
A bill being debated at the State House would increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug.
A House 3-M subcommittee took up that bill and two other bills dealing with opioid use disorder treatments. Lawmakers voted not to take any action on these bills Tuesday but the panel of legislators said they are committed to helping fight the opioid crisis.
In 2018, more than 800 South Carolinians died of an opioid overdose.
Christine Martin with the South Carolina Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence said even though overdose deaths decreased nationally, there was a 10% increase in deaths from 2017 to 2018. “It’s still an issue here. We need to look at strategies to save lives.”
Martin said the association supports H.4711. The bill was filed by Representative Russell Fry (R-Horry).
"This would ensure prescribers in our state are following these best practice recommendations," she said.
The bill would require doctors to prescribe naloxone to certain patients at risk for overdoses when giving them an opioid.
At-risk patients include those with substance use disorder or those being co-prescribed benzodiazepines also known as benzos. Martin said, “Benzodiazepines are a hidden culprit in the opioid crisis. About 30 percent of overdoses involve benzodiazepines.”
The bill would also require doctors to educate their patients and another person they know on naloxone and the dangers of opioids. If doctors fail to do so, they may be disciplined. There are concerns on how this will be enforced.
Others said they are also worried about the likelihood of those with opioid use disorder being more likely to overdose knowing they have naloxone.
Martin said, "I've heard naloxone and distribution of naloxone as a form of enabling and I would say the only thing it enables is breathing."
The 3-M subcommittee said they will continue discussions on this bill during their next meeting.