Senator will reintroduce legislation to protect first responders, health professional and bystanders who administer lifesaving opiate overdose prevention treatments


BOSTON (February 19, 2015) – As new Massachusetts state data reveals an even more detailed and alarming increase in opiate-related overdoses than previously known, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today vowed to reintroduce legislation to shield from civil liability family members, health professionals and first responders who administer lifesaving opiate overdose prevention treatments such as naloxone, also called Narcan. The Senator pledged his support for solutions at the local, state, and federal levels and commended Governor Charlie Baker for his commitment to launching an effort to be led by the Attorney General and the Health and Human Services Secretary tasked with taking immediate action to help halt the prescription drug and heroin crisis.


“What we thought was a rising tide of opiate overdoses is truly a tsunami of heroin and prescription drug addiction that we must stop before it drowns any more Massachusetts families and communities,” said Senator Markey. “The devastating toll this opiate epidemic is taking can be seen in emergency rooms, jail cells and funeral homes across the state and country. We must act now to respond to this opiates emergency and halt its deadliest effects. I commend Governor Baker for the important action he is taking to ensure we have the best data to understand this crisis and improve state prescription drug monitoring programs. These are critical steps in an effort to develop a truly comprehensive strategy to combat the heroin and prescription drug crisis.  


“I plan to reintroduce legislation in the coming weeks to protect family members, friends and other bystanders who administer lifesaving drugs like naloxone that can prevent opiate overdoses. It is our moral responsibility to respond immediately to this epidemic of overdoses, and I will continue to fight for the resources necessary to interrupt the cycle of addiction and help heal our neighborhoods.”


Last year, Senator Markey authored the bi-partisan Opioid Overdose Reduction Act to protect individuals who administer lifesaving opioid overdose prevention drugs. Death from heroin and other opioid overdoses may be prevented if a victim is administered an opioid overdose prevention drug, such as naloxone, in a timely manner. However, the willingness of medical and non-medical personnel to provide and administer overdose drugs may be deterred by potential civil liability. Senator Markey’s legislation will ensure that individuals who have been properly trained and who administer an opioid prevention drug are protected from civil liability. The bill also ensures that health care professionals who prescribe an opioid overdose drug to a person at risk of overdose or a third party, such as a family member of an abuser, are not liable for civil suits.


Senator Markey also reintroduced with nine of his Senate colleagues bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and fund the National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program, which provides grants to states to maintain, improve, and expand their prescription drug monitoring programs. Monitoring programs like NASPER help law enforcement and health professionals to better monitor drug dispensing practices, ultimately helping crack down on potential abuse.


Last fall, Senator Markey released a comprehensive plan to address the prescription drug and heroin epidemic, outlining a series of policy recommendations for federal agencies, Congress and the Obama administration to act upon to address the current crisis. In 2014, Senator Markey convened roundtables in Boston, Taunton and Holyoke, Massachusetts to develop this comprehensive strategy to address the opiate addiction and overdose epidemic.