Emergency Prescription Bill Passed in Pennsylvania


Created after the tragic loss of a Type 1 diabetic in Ohio, a new law in Pennsylvania has eliminated a dangerous loophole in the state’s emergency prescription refill law.

The bill signed eliminates a life-threatening loophole in the state’s emergency prescription refill law. Previously, pharmacists were legally able to issue 72-hour supplies of drugs to patients who could not obtain a doctor’s prescription for a refill before running out. Insulin is an example of a drug that is not available in 72-hour supplies, and therefore could not be dispensed under the previous guidelines.

According to a press release out of Senator Pat Browne’s office (PA, 16th District), legislation addressing prescription refills in emergency situations was signed into law by Governor Wolf on February 20, 2018.

“I am pleased to have this bill approved by the General Assembly and signed into law,” said Representative Ryan Mackenzie, author of companion legislation House Bill 1186. “Individuals on life-sustaining medication need to know there is a backup plan in place in case they run out of medication and are not in a position to get a hold of their doctor for a prescription refill. They should not be placed in a panic situation or be forced to go to an emergency room to get the medically necessary medication they need.”

With the signing of Senate Bill 542, pharmacists are now permitted to dispense up to a 30-day emergency supply if the drug is not available in a 72-hour supply, is not a controlled substance and is essential to maintain life. Like insulin.  

It is critically important that a person with Type 1 diabetes is able to access insulin in an emergency, without waiting for a doctor’s office to provide a prescription. It gives patients/customers the time they may need to also schedule an appointment with their physician while avoiding dire medical complications or even death.

“It’s very important to the Type 1 diabetic,” said Kevin’s father, Dan Houdeshell, “that they can have something they can rely on, where it’s not so difficult to get insulin under certain circumstances.”

Debbie Healy with other local advocates brought this issue to Sen. Browne’s and Rep. Mackenzie’s attention, hoping to prevent in Pennsylvania cases like that of Kevin Houdeshell. Houdeshell passed away in 2014 because state law in Ohio would not allow for him to obtain an emergency supply of insulin. In December of 2015, the emergency prescription bill passed in Ohio due to the efforts of Kevin’s family.

Emergency prescription refill laws vary state to state, but so far, the bill has passed in ten states: Ohio, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, Illinois, Idaho, Michigan and now Pennsylvania. Utah, Oregon and Conneticut are currently working on passing the same bill.

“It’s not the legislatures who are reaching out to us,” said Dan Houdeshell. “The state pharmacy associations are the people contacting us to pass this in their states. And that’s huge. It will [pass] faster if it’s the pharmacists who [lobby to] pass it.”

Dan and Judy Houdeshell initially attempted to have the bill passed on a national level but were met with indifference. In response, they have advocated for state-by-state change, which has proven more successful.

“You fight for change, because it makes sense,” said Judy Houdeshell. “But sometimes the most logical or sensible things are the hardest to get someone else to see or understand.”

The recent change in Pennsylvania is an encouraging step forward brought about by passionate advocates. It gives us hope and inspiration to push for this common-sense legislation everywhere. It can be a matter of life or death.

If you are interested in helping to pass this type of bill in your state, email Dan Houdeshell at dhowdy1965@gmail.com or contact the family on Kevin’s Memorial FB page.

WRITTEN BY Dana Howe, POSTED 03/01/18, UPDATED 03/18/19

Dana was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2002 at the age of 8. Driven by her T1D, Dana studied Biology and Community Health as an undergraduate and went on to complete an MS in Health Communication from Tufts University. In the past, Dana has worked as a communications specialist with major hospitals as well as small nonprofits on topics ranging from cancer to pediatric device innovation. At Beyond Type 1, Dana strives to use social media to amplify the voices of T1Ds and build community around living well with Type 1. When she’s not favoriting your tweets, you can find her skiing, hiking, biking or drinking coffee.