The U.S. Surgeon General released a public health advisory to urge individuals and families at risk of opioid abuse to keep a medication on hand that reverses the effects of an overdose. The medication, naloxone, is already carried by many first responders, such as EMTs and police officers, and has become increasingly available at pharmacies without a prescription.
The advisory from Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., was the first surgeon general’s public health advisory in 13 years. It reflects growing concern about the scope of an epidemic that saw a 21% increase in opioid overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. An estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. now struggle with an opioid use disorder.
Opioids are a class of drugs that include medications, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, which are commonly prescribed to treat pain, as well as illegal drugs, such as heroin. Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose and can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications. Timing is critical as naloxone must be given quickly to be effective.
“The Surgeon General is now recommending that more individuals, including family, friends and those who are personally at risk for an opioid overdose, also keep the drug on hand,” the advisory said.
Most health insurance plans now cover the cost of naloxone. People without insurance may be able to purchase it at low or no cost through local public health programs or through retailer and manufacturer discounts. CVS Health and Walgreens have announced they will stock naloxone in the form of the nasal spray Narcan. The medication also is sold under the name Evzio.
Most states have enacted laws to protect health care professionals who prescribe naloxone from civil and criminal liabilities. In many states, “good Samaritan” laws exist to protect people who administer naloxone or call for help during an overdose emergency.
Douglas is a leading technologist & key strategist with more than two decades experience in the health care and manufacturing industries.