Assembly Bill 663 will allow mobile pharmacies to carry medications to treat opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine
- Nate Allbee
- (415) 756-0561
San Francisco, CA – Assemblymember Matt Haney and San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed announced today that state legislation allowing mobile pharmacies to dispense medications used to treat opioid addiction has reached a critical milestone in the legislative process. The bill has unanimously passed out of the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and Assembly Appropriations Committee and is now headed to the Assembly floor.
“I am proud of San Francisco’s robust network of behavioral health services, and we must continue to do more to reduce the number of drug overdoses happening on our streets and help those struggling with opioid use disorder,” said Mayor Breed. “I want to thank Assemblymember Haney for authoring this legislation that will help us build on the City’s efforts to combat the fentanyl crisis and save lives.”
Authored by Assemblymember Haney and sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco, AB 663 will help local efforts to address the opioid crisis, prevent overdose deaths, and further improve access to healthcare for the city’s most vulnerable patients. While deaths are often the most visible manifestation of the overdose crisis, hundreds of thousands of people in California suffer from opioid use disorder, often referred to as opioid addiction. This illness is often defined by withdrawal symptoms, intense cravings, and risky behaviors that can put one’s health and safety at risk.
“Stopping the fentanyl crisis that’s playing out on our streets is my top priority,” said Assemblymember Haney, Chair of the Select Committee on Fentanyl and Overdose Prevention. “This bill will bring medication where it’s needed most and will help get people off the streets and into recovery."
Opioid use disorder, like other chronic medical conditions, can be effectively treated. Two FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder, buprenorphine and naltrexone, can be prescribed in outpatient clinics and dispensed by retail pharmacies. Although access to these medications has improved over the past several years, there continue to be significant barriers to treatment. One challenge that clinical outreach teams face is providing these medications in a location that is accessible to people experiencing homelessness.
AB 663 addresses this challenge by building on existing state law to allow local jurisdictions to choose if they want to operate a mobile pharmacy that dispenses medications to treat opioid use disorder to clients with a valid prescription. In San Francisco, this would help reduce overdose deaths by expanding access to life-saving care to individuals who otherwise would be unable to access the needed resources.
“AB 663 has the power to save lives by making life-saving medications for opioid use disorder more accessible,” said Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax. “Thank you Assemblymember Haney for recognizing the need for making substance use disorder treatment more flexible and accessible. This gives us another tool to address the fentanyl overdose epidemic that has already claimed too many lives.”
California law (SB 872 (Dodd, 2022) permits pharmacies to operate a mobile unit as an extension of their brick-and-mortar pharmacy license. These mobile units are subject to the same regulations as brick-and-mortar pharmacies, but they cannot carry or dispense controlled substances. While this was meant to reduce the risk of transporting addictive medications, this restriction unintentionally includes buprenorphine which is one of the most effective treatments for opioid use disorder and can reduce risk of death by 40-50%. AB 663 addresses this gap, and allows for mobile pharmacies to carry Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V controlled substances approved by the federal United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
Mobile pharmacies that can provide medications to treat opioid use disorder will complement other public health interventions to address unintentional overdose deaths. Expanding access to medications to treat opioid use disorder is part of the City’s Overdose Prevention Plan, which aims to reduce fentanyl and other drug-related deaths, increase access to treatment for opioid use disorder (including addiction to fentanyl) and stimulant use disorder, increase social support for and reduce the stigma experienced by people at risk of overdose, and improve the community conditions in which drug use occurs.