ANNAPOLIS — A proposal focused on replacing addictive painkillers with drugs that deter abuse has gained approval from both sides of the Maryland Legislature.
The bill sponsored by Delegate Karen Lewis Young came in response to the wave of heroin and prescription drug abuse that has swept across Frederick County and the state as a whole. The proposal would require insurance carriers to provide coverage for at least two brand-name and two generic abuse-deterrent painkillers.
Prescription opioids that are resistant to abuse can be chemically designed to prevent crushing, grinding or liquefying, or crafted so that they do not provide a feeling of euphoria.
Without these safeguards, prescription painkillers can become addictive to those who receive prescriptions and also act as a temptation to young people who might find the drugs in the medicine cabinet, said Lewis Young, D-District 3A. Opioids can also act as a gateway to heroin abuse, she said.
“I’m hoping that we’re giving alternatives, that fewer people will get addicted,” she said Thursday.
Lewis Young said she hopes her legislation will fuel competition between drugmakers.
“I think you’ll see the pharmaceutical companies now coming up with a more robust product line of nonaddictive formulas because if they can increase production and variety, they may be able to do it at a lower cost,” Lewis Young said.
The proposal does not affect a physician’s ability to prescribe medication, she said.
The Maryland Senate on Thursday unanimously approved the measure, which had already cleared the House of Delegates. An identical version sponsored by Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore city, has also succeeded in the Legislature.
The bills will now come before Gov. Larry Hogan, who will decide whether to sign them into law. Lewis Young said she is optimistic that he will support the proposal.
Frederick resident Bob Kozloski, who lost his son to an OxyContin overdose, was one of the proposal’s supporters. He argued in written testimony that Lewis Young’s bill would “be part of the toolkit” in reducing overdose deaths. However, he also asked lawmakers, among other things, to strengthen the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and increase penalties for doctors who are at fault in prescription drug overdose deaths.
Though these measures did not move forward, Kozloski said the success of Lewis Young’s bill will encourage his continued advocacy efforts.
“It actually makes me want to fight harder,” Kozloski said Thursday.