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7/9/2019 Three bills to address opioids signed into law
STATE HOUSE – Three measures passed by the General Assembly to help address the opioid epidemic have been signed into law this week.

The bills will limit first-time opioid prescriptions, place warning signs in pharmacies about the dangers of opioids and remove a potential barrier to possession of life-saving anti-opioid prescriptions. The bills are sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Rep. Justine A. Caldwell and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde.

“We are doing everything we can to address the opioid crisis from every direction, from better interventions for preventing addiction to requiring the pharmaceutical companies who have promoted these drugs to help pay for the problems they’ve caused. I’m proud that my colleagues in both chambers of the General Assembly have made this issue a priority. We all understand that this epidemic is in every one of our districts, affecting the lives of people we know. It’s personal for just about everyone here, and we’re going to keep working to put an end to this crisis,” said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

One of the measures (2019-H 5537A, 2019-S 0981), sponsored by Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and President Ruggerio, will restrict first-time prescriptions for adults to the maximum daily dosage established by the Department of Health. It will also restrict all prescriptions to children to 20 doses, with exceptions for certain conditions and medicines designed for substance abuse or opioid dependence treatment.

“Over the course of several years, lawmakers, policymakers, medical professionals and community leaders have been collaborating and working hard to curb the opioid epidemic that has destroyed or taken the lives of so many in Rhode Island and across the nation. We are continuing to identify every possible contributing factor and implement every solution we can find to address this very complex crisis. We are making headway — recent figures show Rhode Island is experiencing fewer overdose deaths — but we still have much work to do to put an end to this devastating epidemic,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Also signed was a bill (2019-H 5184aa, 2019-S 0291aa), sponsored by Representative Caldwell and Senator Valverde to require signs at pharmacies warning customers about dangers associated with opioids. 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 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. The bill takes effect Sept. 1 and is not expected to result in any significant costs for the state.

“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).

Said Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett), “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.”

President Ruggerio and Representative Caldwell are also the sponsors of the third bill (2019-H 6184Aaa, 2019-S 0799Aaa), which is intended to prevent insurers from denying or limiting life insurance to people who fill a prescription for the anti-overdose drug naloxone. Naloxone, commonly called by its trade name Narcan, is available through an open prescription to anyone in Rhode Island and is carried by many people who do not use drugs but keep it to prevent another person’s death.

President Ruggerio and Speaker Mattiello were also the sponsors of legislation to create the Opioid Stewardship Fund (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), which will assess a fee on pharmaceutical companies that sell opioids to pay for addiction prevention and treatment programs. That program became part of the state budget bill (2019-H 5151Aaa), which was signed into law Friday.

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