Disease Control Centers- There Is Lack of Overdose-Reversal Drug Naloxone

Henrietta Strickland
August 9, 2019

The medication is easy to administer and it can usually reverse nearly immediately the dangerously slow heart rate, breathing and other potentially deadly effects of heroin or other opiates, although some patients require multiple doses.

"The department issued a standing order so that anybody can walk into a pharmacy and ask for naloxone and get it without having to get a doctor's prescription", Christ said.

Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose, but far too little of the lifesaving drug is used where it is needed the most, a new USA government report shows. In the Garden State, naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies that have a blanket order to provide the medicine.

In preparation for International Overdose Awareness Day, the Department of Health is hosting Fighting Stigma to End the Overdose Epidemic: A Harm Reduction Workshop, on August 21,which will feature national experts and local leaders discussing how harm reduction policy and practice can prevent overdose deaths, reduce drug-related stigma, decrease transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, and promote the dignity and health of all New Jerseyans, including individuals with substance use disorder. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Potee says every inmate with a history of opioid addiction who leaves a jail in Franklin County is handed two doses of Narcan, as is anyone who leaves a detox program.

But the federal agency said the overdose-reversing tool is still not used enough in places where it's needed most.

The CDC data includes prescriptions both written by doctors for specific patients, and those filled under standing orders.

For the report, CDC researchers examined USA naloxone dispensing patterns from 2012 to 2018 using pharmacy retail data from IQVIA, a health care, data science, and technology company. For instance, they found naloxone is most commonly dispensed in cities and in the South.

In addition, rural counties were almost three times more likely to have low rates of naloxone-dispensing than metropolitan counties, and naloxone dispensing is 25 times greater in the highest-dispensing counties than the lowest-dispensing counties.

"We acknowledge that people will likely return to use", Potee said.

Christ said in addition to its over-the-counter availability in Arizona, naloxone is co-prescribed with any opioid prescription that is at least 90 morphine milligram equivalents - though the CDC recommends co-prescribing naloxone with any opioid prescription over 50 MME.

The report said that the number of naloxone prescriptions dispensed doubled from 2017 to 2018; only one naloxone prescription is dispensed for every 70 high-dose opioid prescriptions; and 71 percent of Medicare prescriptions for naloxone required a co-pay, compared to 42 percent for commercial insurance. There were more than 3,100 overdose deaths in New Jersey past year.

MA has among the highest rates of dispensing naloxone, the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, according to new federal data.Among counties nationwide, Franklin County in western MA a year ago had the fourth-highest rate of prescriptions for naloxone - commonly sold under the brand name Narcan - with more than 2,200 prescriptions filled for every 100,000 residents. Changes in the law in 2017 allowed any state-licensed pharmacist in good standing to apply for a standing order from the Department of Health to dispense the antidote.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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