Nevada first lady Kathleen Sandoval testified Wednesday in favor of a bill praised for providing immunity for helping someone who overdoses on drugs but criticized by some doctors for adding to the bureaucratic load they must bear.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s prescription drug proposal, Senate Bill 459, was written to help prevent highly addictive painkillers from being dispensed to people without a medical need. The bill would require all practitioners to check the state prescription monitoring program before ordering certain controlled substances to make sure patients do not get excess medication.
Kathleen Sandoval told the Assembly Health and Human Resources Committed that her cousin died of a heroin overdose, and his problem started with prescription drug abuse.
“Physicians should know what type of medications their patients are on,” she said.
Doctors testifying in Las Vegas said the legislation would have a chilling effect on doctors considering medications for patients in pain, perhaps prolonging their suffering. Simply requiring doctors to check the prescription monitoring program will not ensure that drugs are used only for a medical need, they said.
“This bill does nothing to prevent overdoses,” said Dr. James Marx who runs a Las Vegas pain clinic. “This bill is merely an overdose treatment bill.”
Assemblywoman Robin Titus, a Wellington Republican and medical doctor, asked Gov. Sandoval’s aides why the bill couldn’t be written to require doctors to consult the state drug database when they have a reasonable belief that the patient might be seeking drugs for any reason other than the treatment of an existing medical condition.
Nevada Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tracey Green said predicting that a drug might be abused is not easily determined.
“If that’s the only time that a physician would look up, I think it gives us the opportunity to miss many abusers who have figured (out) a way to essentially work the system,” Green said.
SB459 would require all prescribers to register with the state prescription monitoring program. Presently, only an estimated 50 percent of Nevada physicians are registered to use the database.
Called the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, the bill also would grant immunity for doctors administering medications to reverse the life-threatening effects of an overdose of opiate painkillers such as morphine. Medications such as naloxone restore breathing to a victim in the throes of an opioid overdose.