AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A Maine bill that would allow an opioid-overdose antidote to be sold without a prescription is gaining support in the Legislature, but may not have enough votes to survive a veto by Gov. Paul LePage.
The Senate voted 25-8 and the House, 98-49, on Thursday to pass the bill. The measure is backed by police and health care providers. Additional votes in the Legislature will be needed to send the bill to the Republican governor, who has opposed past attempts to increase access to naloxone.
Also known by its trade name, Narcan, the antidote reverses the effects of heroin, Oxycodone and other powerful pain killers. It is not addictive and does not produce euphoria, and has become standard equipment for rescue squads around the state as Maine faces a drug epidemic.
Major drugstore chains like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid all plan to sell naloxone without a prescription in several states this year. The retail giant Target also will start selling it.
The bill requires pharmacists to receive training on naloxone and to provide information to customers on administering the drug as well as the availability of drug treatment.
Supporters say easing access to the drug would save lives in Maine, which saw a record 272 drug overdose deaths in 2015. But opponents say it would enable drug users to take greater risks.
“To do this, to make this available over the counter is telling people you have that right to experiment,” said Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting and a former Maine state trooper.
Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, countered that drug addiction is a disease, like asthma. Giving naloxone to a person who has overdosed is like giving life-saving medicine to someone who’s had an asthma attack, she said.
“This bill is very simply about savings the lives of people who suffer from the illness of addiction so they can live another day and get treatment,” she said.
Sen. Anne Haskell, a Portland Democrat, said reviving a drug user gives them a second chance.
“You can’t treat someone who is not alive,” she said.
Additional votes in the House and Senate would be needed to send the bill to LePage, who has opposed past attempts to increase access to naloxone.
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