NJ bill becomes first-in-the-nation opioid warning label law

TRENTON, NJ — New Jersey has become the first state in the nation to adopt a permanent law mandating warning labels for prescription opioids. Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Vince Mazzeo and Valerie Vainieri Huttle requiring all prescription opioid medications to have a warning sticker advising patients of the risk of addiction and overdose was signed into law July 15 by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“The opioid crisis has had a devastating impact on our communities, robbing us of too many of our friends, family members and loved ones,” Murphy said. “This legislation continues our work to combat the opioid crisis by ensuring that there are warning labels outlining the risk of opioid medications, expanding access to the treatment that so many need and raising awareness of just how easy it is to become addicted to opioids.”

“We have warning labels on just about all medications these days,” said Armato, who represents parts of Atlantic County. “In the middle of this epidemic, we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal to increase awareness and education about the effects of opioid abuse. Adding a warning sticker to all opioid medications is an easy, cost-effective concept that can save lives.”

As a certified recovery coach and member of the Atlantic County Opioid Task Force, Armato has been on the front lines of the opioid and heroin crisis. He leads monthly meetings for codependents of those suffering from drug addiction.

“In 2019 in New Jersey, it’s sadly an oddity to know someone who hasn’t in some way been touched by the ongoing epidemic,” Armato said. “I look forward to working with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, recovery groups and all stakeholders to pass this important piece of legislation.”

The new law, A-3292, requires the Board of Pharmacy to specify the language of the warning label, which at a minimum must indicate that the medication is an opioid and therefore carries a risk of addiction and overdose. The sticker would be black with white font to be clearly readable.

“Opioids are highly addictive, and overdoses are often fatal,” said Mazzeo, who also represents parts of Atlantic County. “We have an obligation to ensure patients and their families are advised of the risks associated with them, so we can continue to battle this epidemic in New Jersey. Overdoses are killing more people than ever before, and this is a step toward preventing more tragedies.”

“This law is plain common sense as we fight this epidemic,” said Vainieri Huttle, who represents parts of Bergen County. “We have warning labels on so many products, many of which are far less dangerous than opioids. The more information and warning we can give people, the better.”

The measure passed the Assembly in May, 77-0, and the Senate in March, 39-0.

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