DES MOINES — Iowa senators voted 48-0 Monday to take measures intended to combat an opioid abuse epidemic in Iowa and the nation that proponents say was responsible for 335 deaths in Iowa over a 12-month period.
“We do have to take positive, affirmative steps toward curbing the opioid epidemic that is sweeping across our state and our nation,” said Sen. Tom Greene, R-Burlington, a licensed pharmacist and floor manager of House File 2377.
The bill was amended by the Iowa Senate with a minor change and returned to the House for likely passage en route to Gov. Kim Reynolds and her expected signature.
The 23-page bill with seven divisions and 21 sections makes many changes to state law, including funding a state-of-the-art prescription monitoring program.
The law would require prescribers to register for the monitoring program and use it when prescribing controlled substances.
Currently, only 45 percent of prescribers are registered to use the monitoring program and about 80 percent of those actually use it, Greene said. The law also would require pharmacies to report to the monitoring program within one business day in an effort to move toward real-time data submission and decrease “doctor shopping” by those abusing the drugs.
The bill also provides so-called Good Samaritan immunity from some civil, criminal or professional liability to a person calling 911 to seek help for a drug overdose and for the person experiencing the overdose. It includes an exception for drug dealers and repeat offenders, Greene said.
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Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs said the bill will make Iowa “a better place two, three and four years down the road ... where we hopefully are going to see the tide turn on opioid prescriptions.”
At one point during the debate, Greene introduced an amendment that would have significantly expanded the state medical cannabis law, authorizing the medical cannabidiol board to make changes to the state’s medical cannabis program regarding which ailments are covered by the law and how much of the addictive chemical may be present in the medical product.
Greene said it was an amendment that needs to move because Iowa has taken “baby steps” in adopting medical cannabis treatments. He withdrew the amendment because he was concerned attaching it to the opioid measure would potentially kill the bill for the 2018 session due to House opposition.
Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, offered a separate amendment promoting needle safety, but it was ruled ineligible for consideration by Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines.
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