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Kaine Introduces Bill to Help Prevent Opioid Overdose Deaths

Monday, November 16, 2015  
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U.S. Senator Tim Kaine recently introduced legislation to help prevent opioid overdose deaths by encouraging physicians to co-prescribe the life-saving drug naloxone alongside opioid prescriptions and by making naloxone more widely available in federal health settings. The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act will enable more health professionals to get naloxone – a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses - into the homes of people who are at-risk of overdose.

“In every corner of Virginia, the drug abuse epidemic is hurting families, challenging local law enforcement and leaving businesses without a capable workforce,” said Kaine. “A particularly heartbreaking aspect of this crisis is that many of the deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses could have been prevented. My bill would increase access to medication that can save someone’s life during an overdose and establish clear prescribing guidelines that will help get vital information about opioids to doctors and patients.”

In 2014, more Virginians died from opioid overdoses than vehicle crashes. Nationwide, heroin and opioids account for approximately 25,000 American deaths per year. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, reversed more than 26,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2014. In the Senate, Kaine has helped lead efforts to combat the drug abuse epidemic, including introducing legislation to hold the FDA accountable for the approval of new opioid drugs by ensuring experts’ voices are heard as new and potentially dangerous medications are considered for approval. In June, Kaine joined U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin to introduce legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). In March, Kaine introduced legislation to protect first responders, health professionals and family members who are educated in administering an opioid overdose prevention drug in an emergency situation of overdose. In August of 2014, Kaine participated in a Project REVIVE training session in Lebanon, Virginia where he learned how to administer naloxone to someone suffering from an overdose.

The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish physician education and co-prescribing guidelines for federal health settings, including VA hospitals, DOD hospitals, Indian health service facilities and Federally-Qualified Health Centers. Additionally, the bill would authorize a program to grant state Departments of Health funding that would help them establish co-prescribing guidelines, purchase naloxone, and fund training for health professionals and patients.

The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act has garnered support from many organizations across Virginia and has also been endorsed by the Harm Reduction Coalition, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the McShin Foundation.

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