House passes bill allowing “expedited partner therapy”

Doctors who diagnose a patient with chlamydia or gonorrhea would be allowed to prescribe antibiotics to the patient’s partners without examining them, under a bill the House passed Monday.

The measure was included in a bill that makes a wide range of changes to public health statutes, including allowing Connecticut licensing boards to discipline a health practitioner who was disciplined in another state or country. The bill passed 134 to 11 and will now go to the Senate.

Much of the discussion of the bill centered on “expedited partner therapy,” the practice of allowing doctors to prescribe drugs to partners of patients diagnosed with certain sexually transmitted diseases without a physical exam. Twenty-eight other states allow it, said Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, the co-chairwoman of the Public Health Committee.

Ritter said there has been a rampant increase in the rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea, and that other states that have adopted similar measures have seen an effect on infection rates. The state Department of Public Health has evidence that prescribing antibiotics to partners without an exam is already current practice in Connecticut and Rhode Island, she said.

Rep. Jason Perillo, R-Shelton, asked whether the measure could lead people to take antibiotics they don’t need, contributing to resistance to the drugs. Ritter said that the increase in antibiotic administration under the change would be relatively minor; if the partners of every U.S. patient diagnosed with chlamydia were given azithromycin, she said, it would represent a 5 percent increase in the use of the drug.

Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, raised concerns about drug allergies and said she has “grave concerns” about allowing a doctor to prescribe drugs to a stranger.