Government News
 DOI: 10.1176/appi.pn.2014.5b11
Bill Would Give Liability Exemption for Use of Overdose-Fighting Drugs
Psychiatric News
Volume 49 Number 10 page 1


APA is backing a new bill that should make people more likely to intervene when they are with someone suffering a drug overdose.

Abstract Teaser

APA has expressed its backing for the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2014 (S. 2092), a bill sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to help reduce the number of deaths attributed to opioid overdoses by exempting from civil liability individuals who under certain circumstances provide or administer a drug approved to combat an opioid overdose.

In an April 11 letter to Markey, APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., noted that statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that deaths from drug overdoses increased from 16,849 in 1999 to 38,329 in 2010. Nearly 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved prescription drugs, and 75 percent of those deaths (16,651) involved opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone.

The legislation states that “notwithstanding any other provision of law, a health care professional who prescribes or provides an opioid overdose drug to an individual at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose, or who prescribed or provided an opioid overdose drug to a family member, friend, or other individual in a position to assist an individual at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose, shall not be liable for harm caused by the use of the opioid overdose drug if the individual to whom such drug is prescribed or provided has been educated about opioid overdose prevention and treatment by the health care professional or as part of an opioid overdose program.”

Similar language pertains to the limitation on civil liability for individuals working for or volunteering at a state or local agency opioid overdose program. That part of the law states that “…no individual who provides an opioid overdose drug shall be liable for harm caused by the emergency administration of an opioid overdose drug by another individual if the individual who provides such drug works for or volunteers at an opioid overdose program; and provides the opioid overdose drug as part of the opioid overdose program to an individual authorized by the program to receive an opioid overdose drug.”

In the letter to Markey, Levin wrote, “APA recognizes that deaths from opioid analgesic overdoses may be prevented if an opioid overdose drug, such as naloxone, is administered in a timely manner. APA further recognizes that the willingness of medical and nonmedical personnel to administer this life-saving treatment may be weakened by potential civil liability. The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2014 builds upon recent efforts in several states to exempt from civil liability individuals who provide or administer an opioid overdose drug under certain circumstances. This targeted exemption promises to save lives and reduce costly emergency department visits.” ■

The APA letter to Markey can be accessed here. The text of the bill can be found here.

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