Opioid prescriptions in Tennessee will soon come with an offer for overdose reversal medication. A new state law awaiting Gov. Bill Lee’s signature requires physicians to be more frank about the risks associated with painkillers.
Overdose reversal drugs like naloxone and Narcan are already available at many pharmacies without a prescription. But Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, who sponsored the new law taking effect in July, says it’s about forcing a conversation.
“How many times do we run across people in sports medicine or some kind of injury they’ve had, and they say they got addicted but ‘nobody told me’? So this is an extension of trying to let folks know they are in a precarious situation,” Ramsey said as he introduced the bill to a House committee.
The requirement would also include patients being treated with drugs that are intended to help with addiction like Suboxone.
Three factors that would trigger a mandated naloxone offer:
- Prescribing more than a three-day supply of an opioid medication
- Prescribing an opioid concurrently with a benzodiazepine (anti-anxiety medication)
- Patient has an increased risk for overdose because of past drug abuse
The legislation, which passed almost unanimously with virtually no debate, only requires that a naloxone prescription is offered, not written. And there are some exceptions, such as hospice patients.
But the intent is to save more lives. Last year was the deadliest for overdoses in Davidson County — with 15% more fatal overdoses than 2020, the previous record year.