[The following is a guest post from PRIUM's General Counsel, Ben Roberts]
Every day we are hearing more news and reporting on the “anti-overdose” drug Naloxone. Just looking at my Google feed this morning I see articles from Maine, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia discussing legislation and it widespread use.
Last year, New Jersey passed the Overdose Prevention Act which permits broader access to naloxone and provided criminal and civil protections for those who administer it.
The Governor of West Virginia is about to sign SB 335 which allows medical responders and law enforcement to carry naloxone as well as allows physicians to prescribe the drug to those at risk of an overdoes as wells as their family and friends.
Many more state have passed and proposed similar legislation.
I think that these efforts should be applauded. Given the state of the prescription drug epidemic, overdose prevention is something that should be on every legislative agenda this year. But when I see these reactive approaches to public health issues I can’t help but be reminded of a poem from my childhood.
In Joseph Malines “The Fence or the Ambulance” a great debate arises in a community about their own “public health” issue:
Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed
though to walk near its crest was so pleasant
But over its terrible edge there had slipped a duke and many a peasant
So the people said something would have to be done
But their projects did not at all tally
Some said, "Put a fence around the edge of the cliff"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley.”
The poem continues with the community making the choice of the ambulance over the fence.
'For the cliff is all right if you are careful,' they said,
"And if folks even slip or are dropping
it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below when they're stopping."
Then an old man remarked: "It's a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause
when they'd much better aim at prevention
if the cliff we will fence, we might also dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.
Overdose prevention, like abuse deterrent formulations of opioids is a positive step, but legislators need to be focusing on proactive steps to help avoid this problem and stem this epidemic.
Ben is PRIUM's General Counsel. You can follow him on Twitter @
As always, you can follow PRIUM @PRIUM1