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Bill Aimed At Reducing Opioid-Related Deaths Passes Through Kansas House

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Kansas is one of only three states that does not allow first responders to carry a drug to reverse opioid overdoses. A bill unanimously approved by the Kansas House on Thursday would change that.

The measure would allow first responders to administer the drugs to people experiencing overdose symptoms after taking opioid drugs including heroin and some prescription drugs. It would also allow pharmacists to provide the potentially lifesaving medication to patients and bystanders without a prescription. It would grant immunity from civil and criminal liability in administering the drug.

The way Kansas law stands now, when first responders arrive at the scene of an overdose, they have to try to keep the person breathing long enough to reach a hospital, where doctors can administer the medication. That's because doctors can only prescribe overdose-reversing drugs to a person who is considered to be at risk, such as someone using opioids for chronic pain.

Drugs like naloxone, called "opioid antagonists," can stop potentially fatal symptoms of a prescription opioid or heroin overdose.

Republican Rep. Greg Lakin of Wichita said first responders would be able to treat people at risk of an overdose death on the scene or in transport to the hospital rather than waiting until they get to an emergency room physician.

"We run them to the ER, to the hospital, and lose precious time," he said.

The measure now enters the state Senate for consideration.


Follow Abigail Beckman on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

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