In the three years since the California law permitting pharmacists to dispense the medication to patients without a doctor’s prescription has been in effect, pharmacists have been slow to dispense naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose.
Kaiser Health News reports in 48 states and Washington, D.C., pharmacists have flexibility in supplying the drug without a prescription to patients, or to their friends or relatives, according to the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. But as in California, pharmacists in many states, including Wisconsin and Kentucky, have divergent opinions about whether to dispense naloxone.
Opioid overdoses killed 15,000 people nationwide in 2015.
Naloxone can be administered via nasal spray, injection or auto-injector. Prices for it vary widely, but insurers often cover it. The drug binds to opioid receptors, reversing the effect of opioids and helping someone who has overdosed to breathe again.
At least 26,500 overdoses were reversed from 1996 to 2014 because of naloxone administered by laypeople, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since then, the drug has become much more widely available among first responders, law enforcement officers and community groups. The drug is safe and doesn’t have serious side effects, apart from putting someone into immediate withdrawal, according to the institute.
Published in the Journal of American Pharmacy Association, one study published on pubmed.gov found that 28 percent of pharmacists surveyed were not willing to dispense naloxone.
Learn about the disparate reasons pharmacists are reluctant to dispense the life-saving drug in The Kaiser Health News