A bill that would allow South Carolina pharmacists to dispense an anti-heroin overdose drug without a prescription is advancing through a state Senate committee.
H. 5193, which cleared a medical affairs panel Wednesday, would allow the overdose treatment drug naloxone to be sold over-the-counter. Supporters say it could help cut into a growing number of opioid-related deaths without the risk of side effects.
“The more access you have, the more lives could get saved,” lead sponsor State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s a very big problem. It’s probably one of the largest problems we have in overdoses as well as addictions.”
Naloxone is the generic name for an antidote that hospitals will give to patients who overdose on heroin or other opioids. It temporarily blocks opioid receptors to stop the brain’s reaction to the drug. It is normally administered through the nose or bloodstream. The most common label for naloxone is Narcan, which is manufactured by Amphaster Pharmaceuticals.
South Carolina is among 39 states that allow pharmacies to sell the drug to those with a prescription. However, Huggins wants to make it more readily available, especially for addicts whose family members may be able to use the treatment to later save them.
The bill will likely be taken up at the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee next week. Supporters believe they have a good chance to pass the bill and send it to the governor before the regular session ends next month.
But Huggins said the state still needs to do more against addiction in the first place. He hopes legislators will look at the growing heroin problem more seriously when they return next year.