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6/26/2019 Assembly approves bill to post opioid warning signs at all pharmacies in R.I.
Measure intended as part of effort to curb opioid epidemic
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde to require signs at pharmacies warning customers about dangers associated with opioids. The bill (2019-H 5184, 2019-S 0291aa), which is set take effect Sept. 1, now goes to the governor’s desk.

The signs would be similar to warning signs about tobacco products required wherever they are sold, and are meant to ensure that customers are aware of the possible dangers connected with opioids when they fill prescriptions for them.

The sponsors said the legislation is part of a wider response to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis in Rhode Island.

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis. We want to give everyone the knowledge, the reminder, the chance — whether it’s someone who is chronically ill, in recovery, a parent —to use their medication only in the way as prescribed by their doctor.  While I would hope they’ve already had conversations about them with their prescribing doctors, warning signs will drive home just how serious these risks are, and prompt them to ask their pharmacist if they have any further questions,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich). “Given the scale of the opioid epidemic, we should be using every available means to ensure that patients who are prescribed opioids are armed with the information they need to prevent dependence.”

The legislation would require the Department of Health to compile a list of the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs containing opioids or other Schedule II controlled substances, and distribute that list to the Board of Pharmacy, which would then distribute the list to every pharmacy in the state, along with warnings about “the overuse, misuse and mixing of those drugs with other drugs, specifically benzodiazepines, and/or alcohol including, but not limited to, dependence, addiction or death.” Each pharmacy would be required to post the sign near where prescriptions are filled.

The bill would also require pharmacists to inform patients about their option to partially fill their prescription, and the procedures for dispensing other partial fills until the prescription is fully dispensed. A law passed by the General Assembly in 2018 allows patients to fill only a portion of their opioid prescription if they choose, to prevent overuse or overdoses. Under the law, they can come back for more of the prescription if they choose, until the prescription has been completely filled, until 31 days after it was first dispensed.

The bill is not expected to result in any significant cost to the state.

“A great many of the people who become addicted to opioids begin with a valid prescription after surgery or an accident. Every person who gets a prescription for them needs to be aware of what the risks are, take only what they need, and make sure they don’t let their prescription fall into anyone else’s hands,” said Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett). “Our state should do every single thing we can to spread public awareness about how easy it is to become addicted to opioids. Signs at the pharmacy are a good opportunity to impress that message upon patients one more time, in a place where they can get answers to any questions they may have about their prescription. Every patient who leaves the pharmacy with an opioid prescription should also leave with a clear message about using them safely.”

The House bill’s cosponsors include House Judiciary Chairman Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown); Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman  Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston); Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston); and House Minority Whip Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry). The Senate bill’s cosponsors include Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923