Maine lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Friday to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto and allow pharmacists to dispense the drug overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription.... The House voted 132-14 and the Senate voted 29-5 to override LePage. Also known by the brand name Narcan, naloxone works to quickly counteract the potentially deadly symptoms of an overdose from heroin or other opiates.
Even those who've come to expect the worst from Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) were taken aback two weeks ago when he vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense an effective anti-overdose drug without a prescription. Making matters slightly worse was the Republican governor's explanation.
"Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose," LePage said in a written statement. As we discussed at the time, the governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case that those struggling with opioid addiction don't have lives worth saving.
Experts from the health care and law enforcement communities hoped state lawmakers would override LePage's veto. Late last week, the Portland Press Herald reported that the legislature did exactly that.
It's worth noting for context that the Maine Senate has a Republican majority and the state House has a Democratic majority, though in this case, that didn't make much of a difference.
As for the underlying policy, if anyone needs a refresher, Naloxone -- sometimes known by its brand name, Narcan -- is a safe and effective life-saving treatment that counteracts overdoses. The point is not to cure someone of an addiction, but rather, to prevent them from dying.
The treatment is 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.
LePage, however, said he's 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 reported two weeks ago 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."
And now the policy will be state law, no thanks to Maine's Tea Party governor.