Pharmacies Are Experiencing A Major Surge In Naloxone Prescriptions

By John Lavitt 02/25/16

The shocking increase in prescriptions of naloxone showcases the national extent of the opioid epidemic and the major growth in public awareness about the life-saving drug. 

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Pharmacies Are Experiencing A Major Surge In Naloxone Prescriptions
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In the face of the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse and heroin use raging across the country, prescriptions from pharmacies for the opioid overdose antagonist drug naloxone have increased ten-fold.

According to new scientific analysis provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the rapid increase in the demand for naloxone prescriptions has occurred over the past 18 months.

The increased focus on naloxone prescriptions mainly has been in outpatient settings. This focus has been most noticeable at retail pharmacies. The incredible jump in prescription numbers reveals both the national extent of the opioid epidemic and the growing public awareness about the drug’s effectiveness as an opioid antagonist.

In the past, naloxone only was available in hospitals or through certain well-trained and well-stocked emergency first providers. The life-saving drug has traditionally been distributed through community programs. Given the numbers of people overdosing, including both long-term addicts and first-time users, wider access has quickly become a huge priority across the country.

To put your head around the shocking extent of the overdose crisis, in 2014 alone, more than 18,000 people died from an opioid pain reliever overdose in the United States; very close to a staggering 50 fatalities per day. In addition, over 10,000 died from heroin-related overdoses, a rate that has more than quadrupled since 2002.

Putting the numbers together, it means that in a single year, over 28,000 people died from an opioid overdose in the United States. To place that figure in its proper historical context, there were 58,220 U.S. military fatal casualties over the course of the entire Vietnam War that lasted from 1961 until 1975.

Currently approved by the FDA in both injection and nasal spray formulations, naloxone is seen as the partial answer to this overwhelming problem. Designed to treat overdose by canceling out the opioids in a user’s system through the introduction of the antagonist, there has been a 1,170% increase in prescriptions of naloxone dispensed from retail pharmacies in the U.S. between the fourth quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2015. To see the abstract published in the American Journal of Health Promotion and co-authored by Dr. Wilson M. Compton, the deputy director at NIDA, you can visit the American Public Health Association website.

The authors of the study, including scientists from the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, believe that prescribing naloxone in the outpatient setting should complement traditional community-based naloxone programs. As clearly expressed, however, the conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or National Institutes of Health.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.