Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said Wednesday she has enough votes to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would allow an antidote to opioid overdoses to be sold without a prescription.

Gideon sponsored L.D. 1547, An Act to Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride – also commonly known by the brand name Narcan. The Legislature is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to override the veto.

“I’m quite confident that we will have enough votes for an override,” Gideon said Wednesday evening. “Instead of it being a close vote, I think it is going to be overwhelming.”

Gideon said it would take 101 votes in the House to override LePage’s veto. In earlier voting, the bill received 98 votes. She said she has spoken with at least two Republican legislators who now say they will vote to override. There are also a couple of Democrats who were absent during the first vote who say they will support an override.

In the Senate, an early roll call vote gave the bill more than the two-thirds majority needed to override.

The president of the American Medical Association, Dr. James Madara, presented House speaker Mark Eves and state lawmakers with a letter Wednesday asking them to overturn LePage’s veto.

“Maine, like nearly every state in the nation, is seeing the tragedy of the nation’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic unfold before our eyes literally on a daily basis,” Madara wrote in a letter published by the Sun Journal.

LePage’s view of naloxone runs counter to that of many law enforcement, health and treatment organizations. Such groups see naloxone as an important tool needed to combat a heroin crisis that contributed to a record 272 drug overdose deaths in Maine last year.

In his veto message, dated April 20, the governor said, “This bill would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone to practically anybody who asks for it. Naloxone does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose.

“Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction,” LePage said.

 


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