Ohio Bill to Safeguard Insulin Access Passes

Update – 12/28/2015 – The legislation has been signed by the governor, and will become Ohio law early in 2016.

This past week, Ohio legislators passed a bill authorizing pharmacists to fill expired prescriptions for some lifesaving medications, including insulin. The bill was partly in response to the 2014 death of an Ohio man with diabetes, Kevin Houdeshell, and was championed by his family.

The legislation would authorize an Ohio pharmacist to provide a refill of certain medications, even if a prescription has expired, if it is determined by the pharmacist that failure to fill the prescription would significantly impact the health of a patient. There are several caveats that were inserted into the bill:

  • A pharmacist must attempt to contact the medical provider who wrote the prescription.
  • He or she also must have the prescription previously on record.
  • The amount of drugs dispensed generally shouldn’t be more than what is needed to get someone through 72 hours, although it can be filled for up to 30 days.
  • The emergency refill can only be done once in a 12-month period.
  • Pharmacists will be barred from using this new power to refill expired prescriptions for some controlled substances.

The bill was championed by the Ohio Pharmacists Association. Its spokesman, Antonio Ciaccia, says the measure will help pharmacists ensure the health of patients when physicians and other medical providers are out of contact.

“This provision will reduce some of the hassle of pharmacists having to move heaven and earth to reach the doctor in the event the patient needs the meds. As long as the pharmacist makes a good attempt to reach out, if there is no response, the pharmacist can dispense without issue,” Ciaccia said in an email interview with Insulin Nation.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has 10 days from when the bill is delivered to him to either sign the law or veto it; if he takes no action, the bill will pass into law. The law will take effect in 90 days from the governor’s signature or 90 days past the 10-day gubernatorial waiting period. It passed both chambers of the Ohio legislature with very strong bipartisan support.

This bill will help people with diabetes and other medical conditions deal with the dreaded situation of running out of needed prescription medication over a weekend or during holidays. It is believed that Kevin Houdeshell tried to refill his insulin prescription on December 31st, 2013, but the prescription had expired. He was unable to contact his doctor because of the holiday, despite attempts on January 1st and January 2nd. It is not known why he didn’t attempt to use non-prescribed insulin, which is often available at Wal-Mart, or go to the emergency room. His family says he was still trying to come to terms with his recent diagnosis of insulin-dependent diabetes. Kevin was found dead in his home on January 8th, 2014.

His father, Dan Houdeshell, and the rest of his family have been advocating for this bill since his death. They garnered support from several influential legislators, and the bill passed within 14 months – which is considered a very quick turnaround in the legislative process. Dan Houdeshell was weary, but grateful, the day after the bill passed. Although this bill was very much a personal mission for Dan Houdeshell, it seems unlikely that his days as a patient advocate are over.

“We can’t thank the Ohio legislators enough,” he said in an email interview. “I am getting lots of requests now from so many states and lots of discussion going on across the country,” he said.

Although the bill gives more prescribing authority to pharmacists, Ciaccia does not believe there will be a legal challenge to the new provisions from other state medical organizations.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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