The City of Fitchburg held a Veterans Day ceremony at the Fitchburg Senior Center on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Addresses the crowd at the program is State Senator Dean Tran. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE
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By Katie Lannan, State House News Service

BOSTON — A new bill before state lawmakers on the Public Health Committee would allow pharmacists to dispense a 72-hour supply of insulin to a patient in an emergency situation.

The bill, filed by Fitchburg Republican Sen. Dean Tran, defines “emergency situation” as an event in which a doctor’s authorization for dispensing insulin cannot be readily obtained.The bill (S 2425) presents another option for state lawmakers to consider as they mull potential steps to take this session around health care access and prescription drug costs.The Senate earlier this month unanimously passed a pharmaceutical pricing bill that made insulin access a centerpiece. That legislation would cap co-pays at $25 a month and exclude insulin from deductibles, a provision senators said could provide price relief for the one in 10 Massachusetts residents with diabetes.

Before passing the bill, senators agreed to a Tran amendment calling for state officials to estimate the costs associated with permitting pharmacists to dispense emergency insulin.Discussing his amendment on the Senate floor, Tran said 20 states have passed emergency insulin access laws since 2014. That year, Tran said, a 36-year-old Ohio man named Kevin Houdeshell died of diabetic ketoacidosis after he ran out of insulin over a holiday and couldn’t get a refill. Tran said the death was “completely preventable.”

“Access to insulin is a human right, and it is a matter of life and death,” Tran said.The Health Policy Commission in March released an analysis tracking sharp cost increases in insulin in a three-year period. A Massachusetts resident with diabetes spent an average $3,122 annually — or $8.91 per day — on insulin products in 2013, the commission found. By 2016, the average spend per person was $4,684 annually, or $13.42 per day.

Tran filed his bill in October, and the Senate referred it to the Public Health Committee for review on Nov. 7. The House agreed with that referral on Tuesday.