Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo’s and Senator Colin Bell’s public push for a change in the state OEMS protocols related to Naloxone paid off when Governor Christie announced yesterday that First Responders in New Jersey are now able to carry the 4mg dose of Naloxone, the anti-overdose drug that has saved thousands of lives.
Since January Assemblyman Mazzeo has been fighting with the state Office of EMS to allow first responders to carry the increased dosage. Mazzeo’s legislation (A-4467) would supersede the state’s outdated protocols to allow the higher dosage that has already been approved by the FDA.
Adapt Pharma, the makers of the NARCAN® nasal spray had an FDA-approved 4mg dose on the market, but first responders were unable to use the product due to the OEMS’s refusal to change internal policy. The bill also would have allowed EMT’s and Firefighters to deploy multiple doses of Naloxone without a call to an EMS Director.
The legislation was previously sponsored by the late Senator Jim Whelan, and is now sponsored by his successor, Senator Colin Bell.
“Governor Christie’s announcement should have never taken this long. Many people pleaded with the OEMS to make this happen months ago. I’m glad our public pressure paid off. Now, first responders will have a better tool to stop overdoses, especially with the increased rate of fentanyl being mixed with heroin,” said Assemblyman Mazzeo (D-Atlantic).
In the “traditional” dose of 2mg naloxone, the patient only actually absorbs 0.4mg. In new products like the 4mg NARCAN® Nasal Spray, 2mg are actually being absorbed. In many cases, the higher dose negates the need for additional doses. Likewise, in October 2016, two advisory panels convened by the FDA voted to recommend an increase of the minimum naloxone dose to 2mg absorption.
“We know it normally takes Governor Christie longer than usual to do the right thing. I’m proud to continue to push this legislation forward to make sure it’s codified into law and that EMT’s and Firefighters can forgo bureaucratic red tape to save lives,” added Senator Bell (D-Atlantic).
Assemblyman Mazzeo and Senator Bell thanked Buena Vista Township Committeeman John Armato, a 45-year firefighter, former EMT, and certified recovery coach for bringing this issue to their attention. Committeeman Armato attempted to persuade OEMS to change their protocols earlier this year without legislation.
The lawmakers also thanked Dr. Ken Lavelle, MD, FACEP, NR-P, BC-EMS, a Board Certified Emergency Medicine and Board Certified EMS Physician who oversees over 40 EMS and fire departments in New Jersey as their Medical Director. Despite the fact that he is personally issuing these OEMS protocols to his departments and is in charge of approving the additional doses for EMTs, he testified in support of the Mazzeo/Bell legislation in February, in direct contradiction to the protocols he has issued.
In February, Dr. Lavelle said, “My agencies cover one million people and respond to 170,000 calls per year. Police and even civilians can deploy naloxone in a way that my EMTs and firefighters can’t. The state is leaving first responders with one hand tied behind their back and in the end it will cost someone their life. This epidemic is fast moving. Opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids are more powerful than ever. EMTs across the state need access to the best products available at the cheapest cost. That’s why I’m supporting this important legislation.”