Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Wednesday that would allow pharmacists to dispense an anti-overdose drug without a prescription, saying that allowing addicts to keep naloxone on hand "serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction." The Legislature passed the bill "under the hammer" -- or unanimously without a roll call -- this month as part of lawmakers' attempts to address Maine's growing opioid addiction epidemic.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage's (R) ridiculous antics have made him something of a national laughingstock in recent years, with many observers inclined to laugh at his clownish behavior. But occasionally, the far-right governor's actions are more repulsive than funny.
The Portland Press Herald reported yesterday, for example, on a LePage position that's likely to literally cost lives.
In a statement explaining his rationale, the Republican governor argued, "Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose."
Note, this was a written statement, not an off-the-cuff comment made during a press conference or an interview. LePage actually thought about his specific position, and argued that a life-saving drug treatment that prevents overdoes "merely extends" the lives of addicts -- and he's against that.
Maine's governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case in writing that those struggling with opioid addiction don't have lives worth saving. If LePage is convinced these people's lives shouldn't be extended, practically by definition, he's making the case that their lives should be curtailed.
As long-time readers may recall, Naloxone -- sometimes known by its brand name, Narcan -- is a safe and effective life-saving treatment that prevents overdoses. It's inexpensive; it's easy to administer; and it's harmless to others. Common sense suggests it should be readily available, especially in areas where the addiction crisis is especially acute.
And yet, Paul LePage is principally concerned with not "perpetuating the cycle of addiction." If that means more of his constituents will overdose and die, so be it.
The Portland Press Herald's article noted that the state legislation was actually recommended by CVS, which received a letter from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), himself a former governor, "asking the chain to expand the availability of the antidote. The bill got support from both law enforcement and health organizations during the legislative hearing."
It's probably why the bill passed the legislature without objection. One would have to be callous to a frightening degree to object to such a proposal.
As for the next step, Maine's legislature -- the state House is led by Democrats, the state Senate is led by Republicans -- will meet next week to consider overriding some of the bills vetoed by the governor. Don't be surprised if this bill is among those that become law whether LePage likes it or not.
* Correction: I'd originally identified Sen. Angus King as a Republican. This was a typo. The senator is, of course, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.