CVS expands access to life-saving anti-overdose drug
CVS/pharmacy on Wednesday expanded a program that allows people to buy the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone—or Narcan as it's more commonly known—without a prescription at its pharmacies in a total of 14 states to help curb the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that claims tens-of-thousands of lives each year to accidental overdoses.
CVS has been selling Narcan without a prescription in only Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but is now expanding into 12 additional states that have passed legislation allowing pharmacies to sell the life-saving drug, which comes in the form of a nasal spray to be administered on a person in the midst of an overdose.
The people of Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin can now purchase Narcan without a doctor's consent, which is a boon for these states as many of them have been hard hit by the recent spike in opiate abuse.
"Expanding access to naloxone without a prescription is an important way that pharmacies can help save lives while also combating the nationwide epidemic of drug abuse," Tom Davis, vice president of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS Health, said in a statement.
In 2013, there were approximately 24,000 deaths from heroin and prescription opiate overdoses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Heroin use in the United States increased 63 percent from 2002 through 2013. This increase occurred among a broad range of demographics, including men and women, most age groups, and all income levels," according to a CDC report released in July.
The CDC credits the spike to users who started abusing prescription opiates like Oxycontin and Hydrocodone.
California passed a law in 2014 that allowed pharmacies to distribute the drug, but that was too late for Denise Cullen, and Orange County woman whose son Jeff died of a heroin overdose in 2008.
"We've been waiting for this day for years," said Cullen in a press release by the Drug Policy Alliance. "Dozens of moms and dads who lost kids to overdose worked to get the pharmacy naloxone bill passed. We know better than anyone that having access to that important drug can literally be the difference between life and death for our kids. This is a hugely significant day for all of us. We hope many more chain pharmacies will now come on board and make naloxone available to even more parents across the state."
Not everyone supports the drug, despite the fact that it has very few side effects. In 2014, after the Obama Administration urged states to pass laws that eased restrictions on the availability of naloxone. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has opposed easing access to the drug.
"His main objection is his belief—and I have to emphasize 'his belief' because there is no evidence that supports this at all—his belief that increasing the availability of Narcan or naloxone will lead the drug user or drug abuser to have this feeling of invincibility," Maine state Representative Sara Gideon told the Huffington Post last year of LePage's opposition to expanding access to the drug.
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