Bill seeks to alleviate EMS drug shortage

Emergency medical service providers would be able to restock prescription medications from local hospital pharmacies under a bill heard Feb. 13 by the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Bruce Bostelman
Sen. Bruce Bostelman

Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, sponsor of the bill, said current law allows for the transfer of prescription drugs between holders of a pharmacy license, health care practitioners and hospitals to alleviate a temporary shortage. LB1002 would add EMS providers to that list.

Bostelman said EMS providers currently must purchase and restock the medications used in treatment and transport only from wholesale drug distributors, which are not local, require minimum purchases and do not always have the necessary medications on hand.

“Taking this action will be a big step in assisting our state EMS providers with the logistical and financial difficulties they currently face,” he said.

Joel Sacks, fire chief of the Ponca Hills Fire Department, testified in support of the bill, saying his agency learned last year that hospital pharmacies were no long allowed to sell directly to EMS providers.

Drugs purchased from wholesale companies often expire, he said, because smaller EMS providers must acquire quantities that they cannot use in time. For example, he said, if an EMS provider uses a dose of fentanyl and needs to restock, they have to purchase a minimum of ten units—and the medication currently is on backorder.

“Approval of this bill will allow us once again to restock necessary medications from the hospital on a one-by-one basis in emergency situations,” Sacks said.

Also testifying in favor of the bill was Dave Huey of the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association. He said some communities are considering downgrading their EMS service from the advanced to basic level because of current purchasing restrictions.

“EMS is very limited in their budget in a lot of communities,” Huey said, “so they’re considering not providing that level of care to their citizens because of the financial issue.”

Joni Cover, CEO of the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, also testified in support of LB1002. The organization would like local pharmacies to be able to supply medications directly to EMS agencies as well, she said, and is working with Bostelman to amend the bill.

“We sell every day to physician offices,” Cover said. “This would be the same sort of thing.”

No one testified in opposition to LB1002 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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