CVS/pharmacy has made the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone, available without a prescription in an additional 12 states - bringing the total to 14. Naloxone can now be obtained without a prescription at any CVS/pharmacy location in Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. The legislation in those states currently allows pharmacy boards to make individual determinations about Naloxone, allowing CVS/pharmacy to offer it prescription-free, as some smaller, independent pharmacies already do.
In a press release, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS/pharmacy, Tom Davis, spoke of the decision:
Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States, and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin. Naloxone is safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives.
Davis pointed out that every CVS/pharmacy location across the United States carries Naloxone, and locations outside of the 14 aforementioned states will continue to dispense the medication with a prescription. He said that the pharmacy company is "reviewing opportunities" to offer the medication prescription-free in other states.
Naloxone is a highly effective way to counteract an overdose with researchers reporting drops in opioid overdose deaths ranging from 50 percent to 30 percent in communities where Naloxone is available. It is also easy to administer, and available for nasal, intramuscular, or intravenous use. It's no miracle cure, either. Once administered, the overdose victim will immediately go into an incredibly painful withdrawal.
A growing number of states have adopted or are investigating legislation to make Naloxone easier to access, as well as protecting those who administer it from potential liability. Others are seeking funding in order to provide training to community members in how, and when, to administer Naloxone.
It's an issue that crosses party lines, with Democrats and Republicans alike agreeing that the medication should be easier to get. Texas Representative Michael Burgess believes Naloxone should be an over-the-counter medication across the states. He pointed out that "if it were available at a 24-hour pharmacy, not saying it could save every life at risk, it could save some. The downside of having it available is what?" Burgess himself was uncertain why Naloxone was so hard to obtain, commenting that the "abuse potential is extremely low" while drug itself "is very useful" to those in need.
CVS/pharmacy has paired the expansion of Naloxone availability with an announcement that it will donate safe drug disposal kits to any interested police department in the United States. The aim is to "provide a permanent drug disposal solution" where unused medication and supplies can be safely collected and destroyed.