Increasing Naloxone Access

In April 2018, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams issued a statement urging more Americans to carry the opioid overdose reversal agent, naloxone. This recommendation was not aimed exclusively at illicit drug users, rather it targeted patients taking prescription opioids, family and friends of someone taking an opioid, and community members who encounter individuals at risk for opioid overdose. Within his statement, Dr. Adams said: “knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.”

The emergent need to address opioid abuse in the U.S. has magnified as the number of related deaths has soared in recent years. The number of annual deaths to opioid overdose has doubled since 2010 and quadrupled since 1999. Over 42,000 Americans lost their lives to opioid overdose in 2016. As a result, President Trump released an October 2017 statement declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. Of note, 77% of overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting, with more than half occurring at home. The fact that so many overdose deaths occur away from medical settings shows the potential impact that increasing naloxone distribution could have.

The pharmacy industry is well poised to help increase access to naloxone.  All 50 states have passed naloxone access laws as of 2017, allowing measures to make the drug easier to obtain, including access to naloxone without a doctor’s prescription in most states. Many pharmacies have seized the opportunity of these laws and make naloxone available for purchase without a prescription where permitted.

Efforts to combat the opioid epidemic are multifaceted.  The Surgeon General’s statement highlights the importance for all of us to take action and potentially acquiring naloxone to have readily available if needed.  No one knows when that time may come but being prepared by having naloxone available will save lives.

 

Published April 2018

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