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BOISE — A bill making it easier to give out anti-opioid overdose drugs was introduced Monday morning.

Current law says a “prescriber or pharmacist” needs to give out naloxone, which is also often referred to by the common brand name Narcan. This has led some health systems to avoid holding naloxone outreach programs, said House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley. The bill would replace this with “health professional.”

Naloxone has been getting more common over the past few years. An increasing number of police departments give it to their officer, including the Idaho Falls police and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, and states including Idaho have been loosening up regulations to make it more available, hoping to encourage the families and friends of addicts to keep some on hand in case of an overdose. Wood said the federal government is in the process of removing it from the list of drugs that require a prescription.

“We want the drug in everybody’s pocket,” Wood said.

The Health and Welfare committee introduced two other bills Monday. One would align Idaho’s drug schedule with recent changes to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s, making fentanyl a Schedule I, or most controlled, substance and adding Epidiolex, an anti-seizure medicine made from cannabidiol oil, to the list of Schedule V, or least controlled, substances. The other would make several changes, such as making it easier for pharmacists to get licenses to practice across state lines and making it easier for the Board of Pharmacy to suspend the licenses of pharmacists who break rules. This last change is driven by a couple of recent cases where pharmacists were arrested for illegally selling opioids, Board of Pharmacy Chairwoman Nicki Chopski told the committee.

Reps. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, and John Green, R-Post Falls, voted against the DEA conformity bill. Green asked several questions about whether it should also incorporate changes to federal law made in last month’s Farm Bill that made hemp and cannabidiol oil legal federally. These are still illegal in Idaho; two truckers were arrested in Ada County on felony drug charges last year while transporting hemp from Colorado to Oregon.

Alex Adams, who was pharmacy board chairman last year and is now Gov. Brad Little’s budget chief, said these changes weren’t included since the deadline for state agencies to propose bills was over the summer. Wood told Green he was “thinking along the right lines” but that this bill wasn’t the place to address that.

“It doesn’t pertain to the merits of this bill, it pertains to future actions, et cetera,” Wood said.

The other two bills were introduced by unanimous vote. A full hearing will likely be set on them at a later date.

The committee also approved six Board of Pharmacy-requested administrative rules changes. The one that will probably be the most noticeable to non-pharmacists, and which was put in effect last year as a temporary rule, lets pharmacists rather than doctors write prescriptions for a few common conditions such as mild acne and urinary tract infections. Adams said they haven’t gotten any complaints about the rule, but “we’ve heard from dozens and dozens of patients who have thanked us for making these (medicines) available.”

Both the Democrats and Republicans on the committee praised the change. Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, said the pharmacy board is “taking the lead as far as slashing regulations and promoting a free-market environment.”

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, who is a pharmacist, said she was “so impressed with the work of the Board of Pharmacy.” She encouraged lawmakers to listen to constituents about what other common prescriptions should be more easily available and pass it on.

“It’s so nice to actually get outside of the lines we’re constricted to and do the things we’re more than capable of doing,” she said.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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