State representative pushing for co-prescription bill as opioid overdoses climb

Updated: Aug. 7, 2020 at 8:08 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina is battling the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic.

In July, state lawmakers learned EMS responses to suspected opioid overdoses were up 52 percent as compared to last year.

State Representative Russell Fry (R-Horry County) is pushing for his bill, H.4711, to be taken up in September when lawmakers return to the capitol.

It would require doctors to co-prescribe the life-saving and overdose-reversing drug Naloxone with opioids to patients under certain conditions, including vulnerability to addiction.

"It invites a conversation with medical professionals, that 'hey you're taking a combination of drugs that could be very deadly,'" he said. "I think that doctors that having these conversations are important."

The bill was out of committee in early March, but Fry said the immediate needs of the pandemic “kind of stopped [the bill] dead in its tracks, it’s sitting on the house calendar right now.”

House Speaker Jay Lucas’s office (R-Darlington) has not yet responded to WIS’s request for comment on the future of H.4711.

Fry said Lucas has been helpful in providing the House Opioid Abuse Study Prevention Committee resources. Fry chairs the committee.

In a July committee hearing, he questioned leaders of the South Carolina Medical Association, the South Carolina Hospital Association, and the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services about the idea of co-prescription in a committee hearing.

All the leaders either supported the measure or said they actively co-prescribe Naloxone with opioids.

In the meeting, S.C. Medical Association Executive Committee Member Wesley Frierson said it was a "great idea" but "it is not common practice."

Midlands Recovery Center Executive Director Bobby Brazell said the bill is a step in the right direction and would help combat the stigma surrounding overdose-reversing drugs.

"Some people look at as, as your enabling somebody to continue what they're doing. I just don't see it that way. You're enabling them to live," he said.

State records estimate there were 900 suspected opioid overdoses in June.

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