New La. law allows doctors to prescribe drugs to reverse opiate overdoses

New La. law allows doctors to prescribe drugs to reverse opiate overdoses

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If you fear someone you know will overdose from heroin or even prescription opiates you could have a way to save their life under a brand new Louisiana law.

Heroin has made a comeback in parts of the state.

Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich, M.D., sees the deadly consequences up close.

"The majority of the heroin overdose deaths that we have are at the home," Dr. Cvitanovich said Tuesday.

He said the heroin that is being snorted, smoked and injected is potent and quite dangerous.

"The heroin that we're seeing on the street is more powerful, much more powerful and it's also much more inconsistent," he said.

Heroin is not the only opiate causing overdoses in local communities. Some prescriptions drugs are being abused, as well.

"Opiates would include Vicodin, Oxycontin, heroin and morphine," he said.

Tuesday Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill authored by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans which seeks to give families and friends a tool to prevent fatal overdoses.

"It's unprecedented for a third party to be able to have a prescription," she said.

House Bill 210 which is now the law gives doctors authority to write prescriptions for "opiod antagonist" drugs that EMS crews and first responders already carry.

"It would allow for a parent, a spouse, a loved one to be able to get a prescription for this drug, Naloxone or Narcan, and be able to administer this drug to someone who may be over-dosing on this drug, and save their lives," said Rep. Moreno.

Dr. Cvitanovich supports the idea. He said heroin abuse is a serious problem.

"It's gone down just a little bit in Jefferson Parish in the last year, but it's still up there compared to previous years," he said.

Called a life saving drug by medical professionals, Naloxone would be available in a nasal spray or as an injectable.

"Most of your opiate overdoses they're going to basically be comatose with very slow, shallow breathing and unresponsive," Dr. Cvitanovich said.

After the drug is administered to the person suspected of having an overdose, he or she should be brought to an emergency room.

And supporters know there are some in the public who feel that prescribing drugs to counteract an overdose enables those using heroin and abusing other opiates.

"You are giving them a safety net, in my opinion it's nothing wrong with giving a family member, or friend a safety net," said Dr. Cvitanovich.

"I don't think it's an end of the problem, but I think it is something that will help us toward saving people's lives," Moreno adds.

Moreno said the State Department of Health and Hospitals will provide guidance to doctors on dispensing the anti-overdose drugs.

The new law says a person acting in good faith who according to the law receives and administers Naloxone or another opioid antagonist to a personal reasonably believed to be undergoing a drug overdose shall be immune from criminal and civil liability unless personal injury results from the gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct in the administering of the drug.

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