GARDINER — Maine residents 18 and older who struggle with or know someone dealing with addiction would be allowed to buy overdose-reversing medication without a prescription under draft regulations unveiled by the state pharmacy board Thursday.

The draft regulations would allow Maine pharmacists to sell naloxone over the counter to individuals 18 and older who are either at risk of opioid overdose or know someone who is. The rules would require pharmacists to receive two hours of training on topics like opioid overdose prevention and safely dispensing overdose-reversing medication.

Last year, Maine lawmakers passed a bill to make naloxone available without a doctor’s prescription, but the law languished while lawmakers made wording changes requested by state regulators. Pharmacy board President Joseph Bruno has said the lengthy delay has been frustrating because the state’s opioid epidemic has worsened, with 376 overdose deaths last year, up from 272 in 2015.

In June, a bill that specifically allows pharmacies to dispense naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, became law without the signature of Republican Gov. Paul LePage. But the state must approve regulations, which must first go through a public hearings process, before the law can take effect.

Several pharmacists said Thursday they worry that the draft regulations’ proposed age limit would keep young people who may be at risk, or who have a loved one struggling with addiction, from easily obtaining it. The bill itself did not call for an age restriction.

“I think that there are people younger than 18 that are getting themselves into trouble, so to restrict it to 18 and older, we’re still not covering the full population of people that are abusing opiates,” said Maine pharmacist Carl Boucher of Eddington.

But former Maine Pharmacy Association President Kenneth McCall said having an age limit seems like a “prudent” approach and that minors could still access naloxone with a prescription.

“I, as a parent, would want to know if this was being dispensed for my child,” said McCall, a University of New England pharmacy professor.

“It certainly increases access as drafted beyond our current regulations that require a prescription,” McCall said of the draft rules. Currently, Maine residents with a prescription can get naloxone, which comes in an injectable form, and a Narcan nasal spray that typically costs around $50.

Forty-seven states have expanded access to naloxone in some form, and the White House commission on combating the nation’s opioid problem this week urged President Trump to provide model legislation for states to allow naloxone dispensing.

Maine joins a handful of states, including Connecticut, that in recent years have passed laws allowing pharmacists who go through opioid overdose training to directly prescribe naloxone to patients.

Other states have different ways for pharmacists to dispense naloxone without an individual prescription. CVS Health spokeswoman Erin Britt said the pharmacy chain is closely following Maine’s regulatory process, and said the chain now dispenses naloxone without an individual prescription in 42 states, through mechanisms like local agreements with local physicians.

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