Why Some Pharmacies Still Fail To Carry Naloxone

By Victoria Kim 11/15/18
Though many states have passed laws to expand naloxone access, some pharmacies have been too slow to get on board.
a box of naloxone vials on a pharmacy counter.

According to new research, expanding access to naloxone still has room for improvement.

Two new studies that surveyed pharmacies in California and Texas suggest that access to the opioid overdose “antidote” is still not optimal, despite the passage of laws across the U.S. to expand naloxone access.

Both California and Texas have passed laws that allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. But some pharmacies are still not on board with the new policies.

“There is still significant room for improvement with regards to making this potentially lifesaving medication available to patents who need it,” said one researcher.

Just 23.5% of retail pharmacies in California were dispensing naloxone sans prescription two years after the new policy was established. Dr. Talia Puzantian and Dr. James Gasper, who co-authored the research, say this may be due to a lack of training, stigma about substance use, and time, according to Family Practice News.

In Texas, 83.7% of pharmacies surveyed said they would dispense naloxone without a prescription, while 76.4% said they currently stocked naloxone.

The benefit of increasing access to naloxone—not only to first responders and medical providers, but to the public—is to save lives, says Texas study lead Kirk Evoy of the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy and University Health System in San Antonio.

“Being able to administer naloxone immediately, while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive, greatly increases the chances of survival and reduces the risk of long-term negative health consequences, because the body cannot last long without oxygen,” Evoy said.

Improving access to naloxone is just one way to lessen the death toll of the opioid crisis.

The total number of drug overdose deaths in 2017 is projected to exceed 72,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“I do not know how many of these people overdosed alone,” says Dr. Seth Landefeld of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in an editorial accompanying the research. “But ready availability of naloxone would undoubtedly have saved many lives.”

While all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of a naloxone access law, all but Nebraska allows for a pharmacist to dispense the drug without a prescription, according to PDAPS (Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System).

Other naloxone access laws include providing immunity from criminal or civil liability for prescribers, pharmacists, and laypeople for dispensing or administering the drug.

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