No Prescription Required: CVS First Chain Pharmacy To Expand Naloxone

By Zachary Siegel 09/24/15

CVS is stepping up to reduce the staggering number of opioid related deaths by making the anti-overdose drug accessible.

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CVS/pharmacy on Wednesday expanded the availability of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, to 12 states. Family members and friends of people who are at risk of an opiate overdose no longer need a prescription to obtain the life-saving drug.

Tom Davis, VP of professional practices at CVS, stressed the need for over-the-counter naloxone. "Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin," he said.

From 2001 to 2013, there has been a five-fold increase in the total number of heroin-related deaths. These numbers can potentially see a dramatic reduction if naloxone were to be on hand.

You can now purchase naloxone at a CVS in the following 12 states: Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

"Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives," said Davis. 

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) sung high praise for CVS on being the first chain pharmacy in California to distribute naloxone without a prescription.

Laura Thomas, California deputy director of the DPA, said, “The fact that just one year ago the bill was signed, and now today we’re seeing CVS stores all across California beginning to sell naloxone without a prescription is a testament to how hard many, many people worked behind the scenes to make this happen so fast.”

The bill Thomas is referencing is Richard Bloom’s AB1535, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014. The bill was sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Pharmacists Association.

Advocates around the country are working to ensure that this life-saving drug is available to all who need it. The hope is that more states will follow suit.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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