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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Life Saving Open Access Naloxone Programs

As state officials continue to fight the good fight against the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing America, there is no question that naloxone is, and will continue to be, the best weapon. Every day, overdose victims across the country are being saved by naloxone kits in the hands of first responders. In most states, a prescription is required for addicts and their loved ones to obtain naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan ®. Seeing as first responders cannot always arrive in time to administer the life saving drug, there is a good argument for making naloxone available without a prescription.

At hundreds of pharmacies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, pharmacists have been granted the authority to distribute naloxone kits to people without a prescription, ScienceDaily reports. The open access naloxone programs are part of a set of opioid protocols led by researchers at:
  • Boston Medical Center (BMC)
  • Rhode Island Hospital
  • University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy
If the protocols prove to be effective, they may serve as guides for other states and nations to set up similar life saving programs, according to the article. Prescription opioids and heroin are the leading cause of adult injury death in the United States.

"We are encountering an unprecedented public health crisis related to opioid abuse and overdose," said Traci Green, PhD, MSc, deputy director of BMC's Injury Prevention Center, who served as the article's first author. "Given that nearly every community has a pharmacy, there is a tremendous opportunity to help save lives by allowing pharmacists to provide naloxone rescue kits to those at risk for overdose."

"Creating these `behind-the-counter' pharmacy models for naloxone allows greater access and availability to people who may not be comfortable or able to obtain naloxone from syringe exchange programs or drug treatment programs, and especially to communities outside of urban settings," Green said. "Unfortunately, not all communities have harm reduction or treatment services available, but pharmacies are everywhere."

The protocols can be accessed in Harm Reduction Journal.

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