Bill to allow emergency refills of prescription drugs heads to Iowa governor’s desk

A bill passed the Iowa Senate unanimously on Tuesday that would allow for emergency refills of prescription drugs without a prescriber’s authorization.


Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on April 29, 2018.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Reporter

A bill that would allow for emergency refills of prescription drugs without a prescriber’s authorization, House File 700, passed the Iowa Senate Tuesday unanimously.

The original law in Iowa only allowed for a 72-hour emergency medication supply, despite some medication such as insulin being often packaged in much larger quantities. The new law would allow emergency refills for up to a 30-day supply, or whatever the standard dosage of the medication is packaged in.

Senate File 530, a companion bill to HF 700 in the Senate Human Resources Committee, specifically related to the dispensing of insulin. It was withdrawn Tuesday on the Senate floor and substituted with HF 700, which allows for a wider range of medications to be available for 30-day emergency refills.

The Iowa House approved HF 700 unanimously in March.

Sen. Carrie Koelker, R-Dyersville, who sponsored the bill when an earlier version was introduced in the Senate, said she was extremely excited to see the bipartisan support Tuesday in the Senate chamber.

“It was a bipartisanship bill from the gate,” Koelker said. “We’ve all been passionate about it.”

Koelker told The Daily Iowan in March that this bill was inspired by one of her constituents. Janelle Lutgen’s son, Jesse, died last spring after he could no longer afford insulin. Jesse lost his job and with that, he lost his health benefits.

RELATED: As insulin prices rise, politicians attempt to take action, but for some families, it’s too late

Jesse died after rationing his insulin to treat his Type 1 diabetes. Koelker said in March this bill is not a “cure-all” to the larger problems in the pharmaceutical industry.

On Tuesday, Koelker called the passage of the bill the “first step on the ladder” of addressing the accessibility of pharmaceutical drugs.

HF 700 was passed with an amendment that would require an insurance provider to cover one emergency refill every 12 months.

Iowa Sen. Tom Greene, R-Des Moines, member of the Human Resources Committee, said Tuesday on the Senate floor that this bill would allow pharmacists to exercise professional judgement and to provide patients with emergency supplies of insulin when their health would otherwise be affected.

Greene added that the emergency access to certain pharmaceuticals is especially important when a pharmacist is not able to reach a prescriber within reasonable efforts, considering drugs like insulin are essential to a patient’s health.

“I mean, if you’re a Type 1 diabetic, you’ve gotta have your insulin,” Greene said Tuesday on the Senate floor.