Kevin’s Law: Pharmacist’s discretion can be life-saving

Pharmacist’s discretion can be life-saving

Last week, a law went into effect that shows just how far we have fallen in terms of allowing the use of common sense and decency.

That Kevin’s Law was necessary at all demonstrates an appalling societal failure. Too many pharmacists and customers behaved badly, it seems, to allow those who handle prescription medications the freedom to make their own judgment calls in emergency situations.

Certainly in West Virginia we know too many pharmacists DID behave criminally in handling forged, duplicated or expired prescriptions for drugs such as opioid painkillers. The tightened restrictions on those are fully justified. Similar regulations were put in place throughout Appalachia. But, in 2014, Ohio resident Kevin Houdeshell, 36 (not exactly a “boy,” as some advocacy groups described him, but hey, that has a better public relations ring to it) ran out of insulin and had nothing but an expired prescription to bring to a pharmacy. Reportedly, he was unable to reach a doctor who would write a new prescription, and the pharmacist would not bend the rules to give him some emergency doses. He is said to have tried to ration his remaining insulin over three days (a holiday weekend), and then died.

West Virginia is now the 13th state to allow pharmacists the freedom to, in emergencies, extend an expired prescription if a doctor cannot be reached. In this case, “emergency” means the medicine is considered life-saving. There are plenty of other stipulations in the law, of course — the sad truth is it would be too easy for some bad actors to fall right back into their old ways.

But it is a step in the right direction in terms of restoring a little autonomy to those who are often in the best position to make life-and-death decisions.