GREENVILLE – On Monday, CVS Health announced it would make the opioid overdose reversal medicine naloxone available without a prescription at all CVS Pharmacy locations across Ohio beginning in late March 2016.
White House National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp joined CVS Health in making the announcement at a press conference in Toledo.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, can reverse a heroin overdose by countering breathing-suppression effects that opioid overdoses have on the brain.
Administered as a nasal inhaler or with an injection, naloxone has not been available in Ohio stores.
“Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by expanding access to this medication in our Ohio pharmacies by the use of a physician’s standing order for patients without a prescription, we can help save lives,” said Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS Pharmacy. “We support expanding naloxone availability and we applaud the State of Ohio for its leadership in the fight against drug abuse and addiction.”
“Today’s announcement builds on the commitment CVS Health made last October when President Obama announced new public and private sector actions to address prescription drug abuse and heroin use,” said White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli. “Expanding access to the lifesaving overdose-reversal drug naloxone is a critical part of our national strategy to stop the opioid overdose epidemic, along with effective enforcement, prevention, and treatment.”
Ohio legislators have in the past year changed laws to make it easier to distribute naloxone widely.
It is used locally by police and emergency crews, who are typically the first called for help for a heroin or other opiate overdose.
“By making naloxone available at their stores without an individual prescription, CVS Pharmacies will be helping to put a life-saving tool in the hands of Ohioans who may have a family member or someone close to them suffering from an opiate addiction,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Many of our first responders carry naloxone, but having it available on a wider basis could get help to someone who is overdosing even more quickly.”
The antidote is easy to administer. A small tube of medication is screwed into a syringe attached to an atomizer. The person administering naloxone squeezes half of the tube into each of the victim’s nostrils.
“It shouldn’t be easier for Ohioans to get opioids than it is to get life-saving medication necessary to stop overdoses,” said U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who has partnered with CVS Health on several efforts to curb prescription drug abuse, including the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act, which would allow pharmacies to use drug-management programs in Medicare. “As trusted institutions in the community, pharmacies have an important role to play in our collective fight against addiction to opioids and heroin. CVS Health’s commitment to solving this problem by making overdose-reversing medications available to patients, first responders, and caregivers without an individual prescription shows it takes this responsibility seriously. We need to use every resource available to prevent and treat addiction and drug overdoses and help save lives in Toledo and across Ohio, and I will continue to work with my colleagues, the Administration, and community members to fight this public health crisis.”
“By increasing access to the life-saving drug naloxone, we can help bring more people back from the grips of overdoses,” U.S. Senator Rob Portman stated. “This marks an important step in our fight to combat addiction and I will continue to work for a bottom-up, comprehensive approach to the heroin epidemic.”
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, naloxone was administered more than 12,600 times around the state last year.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill last year expanding availability of the drug. It let doctors authorize individuals to hand out a drug overdose antidote to addicts, their friends and family members without requiring a prescription.
Fatal drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, above car crashes.
CVS Health is also providing the opportunity for law enforcement agencies in Ohio to apply to receive a drug collection unit to help local communities safely dispose of unwanted medications, including controlled substances.
Through the Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program, a joint effort of CVS Pharmacy and The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, more than 20 drug disposal units donated across Ohio have collected more than 4,000 pounds of unwanted medications since September 2014. And nationwide, the program has donated more than 500 drug collection units and collected more than 28 metric tons of unwanted medications.
CVS Health is also highlighting its community outreach program called “Pharmacists Teach,” which gives high school students the opportunity to hear from local CVS pharmacists about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
School administrators in Ohio can learn more about this opportunity and request to participate in the program by emailing ProfessionalPracticeRetail@cvscaremark.com. Nationwide, more than 5,000 students have already participated in the program.
CVS Health’s move to increase access to naloxone in Ohio comes in addition to more than a dozen states where naloxone is already available without a prescription at CVS Pharmacy locations including Arkansas, California, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.