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Chief Medical Officer to Expand Availability of Overdose Antidote

 

DENVER— In keeping with Senate Bill 15-053, Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will expand the availability of naloxone, which is used to counter the effects of opioid overdoses. Opioids include prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin.

Colorado’s new law allows the state’s chief medical officer to issue standing orders for naloxone prescriptions that can be filled by pharmacists and used by:

  • A family member, friend or other person in a position to assist a person at risk of overdose.
  • An employee or volunteer of a harm reduction organization.
  • A first responder.
  • An individual at risk of overdose.

The law protects these individuals from civil or criminal liability if they provide naloxone in good faith to an individual experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose.

“This legislation will save lives,” said Dr. Wolk. “While our first aim is prevent the abuse of both illegal and prescription opioids, we now can make a life-saving antidote more readily available to people who can help someone at risk.”

Lisa Raville, executive director of Colorado’s Harm Reduction Action Center, said, “We are so thankful to the Legislature for unanimously passing this law to expand access to naloxone across the state. And a special thank you to Dr. Wolk for allowing pharmacists and harm reduction organizations – that don't have a medical provider – to work under his license as they are often better placed than doctors to reach those in need of naloxone such as opiate users, mothers and law enforcement members.”

From 2011 to 2013, an average of 7,600 Coloradans visited emergency departments each year because of drug overdoses. Annual deaths from painkillers such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and fentaynl more than tripled from 2000 to 2013 in Colorado.

At a news conference in February, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a new statewide education campaign, Take Meds Seriously, to raise awareness about the problem of prescription drug abuse in Colorado. The campaign focuses on safe use, storage and disposal of prescription pain medications.