In response to sustained advocacy from the Arizona Medical Association (ArMA), the Arizona House of Representatives voted 56-2 in support of S.B. 1250 (PDF), which will help increase access to naloxone, sterile needle and syringe exchange programs, and other evidence-based harm reduction measures. The bill already passed the Arizona House of Representatives with strong, bipartisan support and is expected to be signed by the governor.

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“We commend the Arizona legislature for its support of evidence-based, harm reduction measures to help support the public health and save lives,” said ArMA President Miriam Anand, MD. “We now will continue to work with our legislative and public health leaders to support implementation of sterile needle and syringe exchange services.”

The AMA joined ArMA in support of provisions that will broadly help prevent transmission of blood-borne infections through facilitating the safe disposal of used needles and syringes as well as distribution of naloxone. In addition, S.B. 1250 will help reduce stigma for individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) to receive information and access to other important health services, including hepatitis C and HIV diagnosis and treatment, as well as treatment for a SUD.

In a letter to the Arizona House of Representatives (PDF) urging support for S.B. 1250, AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara, MD, also highlighted that the bill provides important legal protections for employees, volunteers and participants of an overdose and disease prevention program in Arizona. “S.B. 1250 wisely takes a public health approach to protect against a charge, arrest or prosecution for the possession of injection supplies provided by or returned to an overdose and disease prevention program,” wrote Dr. Madara.

A new law in Oklahoma makes clear that physicians are the ones to determine appropriate treatment decisions for patients with pain, including those receiving opioid therapy. Senate Bill 57, which was supported by the Oklahoma State Medical Association and the AMA, amends current law with the following provision:

“Nothing in the Anti-Drug Diversion Act shall be construed to require a practitioner to limit or forcibly taper a patient on opioid therapy. The standard of care requires effective and individualized treatment for each patient as deemed appropriate by the prescribing practitioner without an administrative or codified limit on dose or quantity that is more restrictive than approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

Oklahoma joins New Hampshire as two of the only states to enact specific laws recognizing the need to protect individualized patient care decisions for patients with pain. The New Hampshire law (PDF) includes provisions that specify care decisions must be individualized, including the decision whether to prescribe or continue opioid therapy “shall not in any way be pre-determined by specific Morphine Milligram Equivalent (MME) guidelines,” and that “ongoing evaluation, documentation and decisions about care are to be made by the treating practitioner.”

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