Baltimore officials recently made the drug naloxone (otherwise known as the brand name of Narcan) available over the counter. Those on Medicaid can buy the medicine for just one dollar. In recent months, Baltimore has been hard hit by the opioid crisis, and with the readily available naloxone, health officials hope to curb the number of opioid overdose deaths. The drug can be given as a nasal spray or injected straight into the muscle, and with some overdoses, it takes several doses of naloxone to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
The Washington Times reported that Leana Wen, the city health commissioner, said the requirements for getting the lifesaving drug were waived. She continued to say that the “associated paperwork was cumbersome” and prevented people from obtaining naloxone. Anyone can go into any Baltimore pharmacy and order naloxone to save a life.
City officials state that at least 20,000 Baltimore residents use and abuse opioid drugs. In 2016, almost 500 people died from overdoses, according to the Baltimore health department. The move by health officials puts the city in line with some other cities and states to grant naloxone over the counter status. Speaking to CBS Baltimore, Dr. Wen said that she would like to see naloxone in every first aid kit. Maryland governor Larry Hogan said that public health officials need to do everything they could to fight the opioid epidemic. He went on to state that Maryland was in a “state of emergency” because of the crisis.
In many other cities and states across the nation, city and state officials are also making naloxone available over the counter. Some states including Ohio, Mississippi, are filing lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for the production of opioid medications. Some though, are claiming naloxone only “emboldens addicts to take risks.”
Before making naloxone available over the counter, interested people had to get training to administer the drug and fill out lengthy paperwork. But since the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (or HOPE Act) was passed by Maryland government officials, naloxone was made readily available to everyone who might need it.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Dr. Wen encouraged others to carry naloxone in a case of an overdose. More than 20,000 Baltimore residents had been trained to administer the drug with almost 1,000 people being saved. Speaking to The Baltimore Sun, Dr. Wen said naloxone was a “stopgap to keep opioid users alive long enough to get treatment.”
By Cheryl Werber