this is a picture of Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose
Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Officials say it isn't effective on xylazine. Arielle Levin Becker /

A bill aimed at tackling the epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse won final passage in the Senate Tuesday night. It now goes to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who plans to sign it.

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Among other things, the bill would limit initial opioid prescriptions for acute medical conditions to a seven-day supply. Subsequent prescriptions for adults could be for longer, but minors would always be limited to a maximum supply of seven days.

There are exceptions to the limit, however. Medical practitioners could exceed it in cases of acute pain, or to treat chronic pain or pain associated with cancer or palliative care. Practitioners who do so would have to document the patient’s condition in the medical record and indicate that an alternative to the opioid was not appropriate.

Some have raised concerns that the shorter prescription duration would inconvenience patients and could lead them to have to pay multiple copayments if they need a longer supply. But legislators said that was outweighed by the potential for reducing the number of leftover pills that could be misused. Data indicate that many people who misuse opioids get them from friends or relatives.

Other provisions of the bill would:

  • Require municipalities to ensure that emergency responders are equipped with and trained in the use of a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The bill doesn’t specify which first responders should carry the medication, but calls for it to cover those likely to be the first to arrive on the scene of a medical emergency.
  • Require insurance plans to cover the overdose reversal drug naloxone or other medications that treat overdoses, without requiring prior authorization.
  • Require that health care providers or someone acting on their behalf review a patient’s records in the state’s electronic prescription monitoring program before prescribing a controlled substance for the patient with more than a 72-hour supply. Those prescribing the drugs for regular treatment would have to review records regularly.
  • Expand membership of the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council, which currently includes state agency officials and others involved in substance abuse treatment and recovery. It would also charge the council with developing measurable goals that include reducing the number of opioid-induced deaths in Connecticut.

Last year, 723 people died from accidental drug overdoses in Connecticut. More than 60 percent of those involved opioids.

“This is a big step – and it’s an important action for families statewide. This is a devastating trend that is hurting families in so many communities across our country and here at home,” Malloy said in a statement, describing the bill as a way to fight the epidemic while working to prevent new addictions from occurring.

The bill received unanimous support in both the House and Senate.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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