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Naloxone Information


naloxone-hcl-narcanAlthough opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which reverses the dangerous effects of taking high amounts of painkillers or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Friends, family members, and drug users themselves can learn how to use it in the event of an overdose, and it can save a life.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an easy-to-use, lifesaving antidote to overdose from heroin or other opioids. Used in hospitals for decades, the medication has no abuse potential and can be administered with basic training. It can be administered intramuscularly (with a syringe) or intranasally (spraying with an atomizer up the nose), and you can learn how to give the medicine to a friend or family member to use in case of emergency.

According to NaloxoneInfo.org:

A safe medicine with no abuse potential, naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it ejects heroin and other opioids from receptors in the brain, reversing the respiratory depression caused by an overdose of these drugs. Naloxone has been used for decades in medical settings, and is included in the World Health Organizations’ List of Essential Medications. Side effects beyond opioid withdrawal are rare, and the medication works within two to eight minutes to restore breathing – returning the victim to consciousness.

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Naloxone’s rising price costing lives

naloxHospira, the sole manufacturer of opiate overdose reverser naloxone, has jacked up the price of the antidote by 1,110% since 2008, threatening the sustainability of overdose prevention programs nationwide, according to this article. Naloxone distribution programs have handed out more than 53,000 naloxone kits and report over 10,000 overdose reversals since 1996, the article notes — but in the past two years alone, almost 10% of the distribution programs have closed their doors, causing overdose deaths to start to bounce back up.

Possible solutions: the FDA could allow temporary importation of naloxone from foreign manufacturers, the federal government could lower prices by enticing new pharmaceutical companies to enter the market through a fast-track approval process, or the FDA could give the green light to naloxone for over-the-counter use so that people who need it can purchase directly from pharmacies, the article says.

Of course, Hospira could also lower the price of naloxone, which is a $20-million-a-year industry: it would cost a mere $100,000 for Hospira to supply every harm reduction program in the country with enough naloxone to meet current capacity, the article points out.

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S.F. pill deaths up, but heroin deaths down due to naloxone

naloxone-hcl-narcanIn San Francisco, efforts to educate the public about naloxone — an antidote that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose — has led to a drop in heroin-related deaths, but abusers of prescription medications are still suffering fatal overdoses. In 2003, San Francisco became the first California city to publicly fund the distribution of naloxone, which has saved more than 900 lives over the past decade — and reversed 274 overdoses in 2012 alone, according to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. But only 13 of last year’s 274 naloxone reversals were for prescription opiate overdoses, and another 37 involved the painkillers in combination with other drugs, the article says.

Fatal overdoses from heroin in San Francisco, which peaked at around 160 a year in the mid-1990s, have dropped to fewer than 10 a year today, and the city’s emergency rooms reported a 49% decrease in heroin-related visits from 2004 to 2010, the article says.

Meanwhile, the use of oxycodone rose by 528% from 2004 to 2010 based on emergency room visits, and non-heroin opiate use jumped 212%, according to the article.

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Naloxone awareness can combat opiate deaths: WRCPC


Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. (This always amazes me, but I myself didn’t know about naloxone until well after my brother’s heroin overdose death in 2009. It took less than 10 minutes for me to get trained in Narcan use by the wonderful folks at the D.O.P.E. Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones — and if you live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest contacting them to get trained.)

In Canada — which is second only to the U.S. in per-capita consumption of prescription opiates — naloxone costs less than $12, but isn’t widely distributed or acknowledged, according to the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. In a powerful new short film, the WRCPC explains how naloxone can help save lives and highlights the need for expanding overdose prevention.

Distributing the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, a study found earlier this year.

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N.J. mulls legislation to encourage naloxone use

In New Jersey – where overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death, exceeding traffic fatalities and gun-related deaths – legislators are considering implementing a law that would grant immunity to those who dispense and administer naloxone, a medication that counters the effects of overdoses from opiates like OxyContin and heroin. The Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act would allow medical providers to prescribe naloxone and allow people to administer the drug to overdose victims without fear of being prosecuted. It would also require that prescription recipients get information on how to prevent and recognize overdoses, as well as how to administer the medication and care for the overdose victim. Eight other states have similar laws.

Last year, New Jersey legislators floated a separate bill that would have granted immunity to those who report overdoses, but Gov. Chris Christie nixed the measure, proposing that state officials study the issue instead. The governor claimed the legislation was too narrowly focused on encouraging more reporting of drug overdoses, rather than other aspects such as drug abuse deterrence, violence prevention and public safety.

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Drug czar endorses naloxone to curb overdose deaths

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is calling for increased action to prevent drug overdose deaths, specifically through wider distribution of the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone. Speaking Wednesday at a North Carolina overdose-prevention program, Kerlikowske expressed support for broadening access to naloxone, noting that the odds of surviving an overdose depend on how quickly the victim receives treatment, according to this article.

The state’s drug overdose prevention program – which also includes physician and patient training – has reduced overdose deaths by 69% in two years, according to community leaders.

Although opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.

Earlier this year, the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that seeks to advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, said in a policy brief that naloxone’s status as a prescription drug is one of the key barriers to broader access. And due to its status as a generic medication, producing it does not yield substantial profits, so many pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to manufacture it, the organization noted.

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CVS to stock R.I. Walgreens stores with Narcan

narcan-with-needle3The opiate overdose antidote Narcan will soon be available in all CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island without a prescription. The move comes as the state is seeing a surge in recent deaths due to opiate drug overdoses, which can be reversed by Narcan, also known as naloxone. Narcan can be administered as a nasal spray or an injection, and CVS says it will offer both, following in the footsteps of a similar move by Walgreens last year.

Rhode Island ranks among the highest in the country in illicit drug use, including the non-medical use of prescription painkillers and per capita overdose deaths.
In the first four months of 2014, 90 Rhode Islanders died from accidental drug overdoses, a 23% increase from the 73 drug overdoses reported during the same period last year.

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U.S. AG calls for cops to carry Narcan

naloxone-hcl-narcanU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is urging federal law enforcement agencies to identify, train and equip personnel who may interact with a victim of a heroin overdose with the drug naloxone. The potentially life-saving drug — which effectively restores breathing to a victim in the midst of a heroin or opioid overdose — is already carried by officers in some state and local law enforcement groups while on patrol.

The U.S. Department of Justice wants federal law enforcement agencies, as well as their state and local partners, to review their policies and procedures to determine whether personnel should be equipped and trained to recognize and respond to opioid overdose by various methods, including the use of naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to naloxone, resulting in over 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.

According to Holder:

The shocking increase in overdose deaths illustrates that addiction to heroin and other opioids, including some prescription painkillers, represents nothing less than a public health crisis. I am confident that expanding the availability of naloxone has the potential to save the lives, families and futures of countless people across the nation.

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N.J. docs must boost painkiller vigilance: Christie

RXNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is urging physicians to be more careful about their prescribing habits when it comes to potentially addictive painkillers, and is encouraging their participation in the state’s voluntary drug monitoring program. The comments came at a doctors’ conference where the governor described how deeply affected he has been by the recent death of a close friend due to pain medication, according to this article.

Only about 20 to 25 percent of doctors in the state voluntarily use the program, the article says. Meanwhile, treatment centers in the state reported 7,238 admissions for painkiller addictions in 2010, 12 times more than in 2000, the article adds, citing data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Christie had previously come under fire for rejecting an early version of the state’s Good Samaritan bill, which he claimed was too narrowly focused on encouraging more reporting of drug overdoses, rather than other aspects such as drug abuse deterrence, violence prevention and public safety. In May 2013, he signed an updated version of the bill into law, but partially vetoed a separate bill that would make the overdose antidote naloxone available to spouses, parents and guardians of people addicted to opioids. This March, the Christie administration issued a waiver allowing emergency medical technicians to administer naloxone after completing a training course.

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FDA OKs new overdose antidote treatment

naloxone-hcl-narcanThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a prescription treatment that can be used by family members or caregivers to treat a person known or suspected to have had an opioid overdose. The hand-held device, known as Evzio, rapidly delivers a single dose of the drug naloxone and can be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine cabinet, according to the agency. Naloxone is a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of opioid overdose and is the standard treatment for such situations, but until now it has been available mostly in hospitals and other medical settings.

Evzio is injected into the muscle (intramuscular) or under the skin (subcutaneous), the FDA said. Once turned on, the device provides verbal instruction to the user describing how to deliver the medication.

Drug overdose deaths, driven largely by prescription drug overdose deaths, are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States – surpassing motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of drug overdose deaths had steadily increased for more than a decade.

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