Senate approves overdose-fighting bill

This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. On Thursday, the Alaska Senate voted 17-1 to restrict the amount of opioid painkillers that may be prescribed with a single prescription. House Bill 159 now returns to the House for a procedural vote. (Associated Press file)

The Alaska Senate voted Thursday to restrict the ability of doctors to prescribe opioid painkillers.

House Bill 159, proposed by Gov. Bill Walker, is part of the state’s effort to fight a surge in the number of deaths linked to opioid overdoses and was approved by a 17-1 margin.

Since 2005, the opioid death rate has risen four-fold, according to figures from the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. It remains below the death rates for firearms, suicide, alcohol, accidents, and diseases linked to unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise.

The measure now goes to the House, which must approve changes made in the Senate.

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