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Busting Myths About Naloxone

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Naloxone, an emergency opioid overdose reversal agent, is a vital tool for healthcare providers. However, access is limited in certain communities, and the FDA recently addressed a few obstacles that may prevent the appropriate distribution and administration of naloxone.

For instance, while naloxone requires a prescription, 42 states and the District of Columbia allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone under a standing order, which replaces a personal prescription.

“Some states also have given pharmacists direct authority to prescribe and sell naloxone to consumers,” the FDA wrote. “Still, many pharmacists may be unaware of the standing orders and direct authority in their states or are unwilling to provide all forms of naloxone to consumers without an individual prescription.”

Another naloxone misperception: Only trained healthcare professionals can administer the injectable form in a proper healthcare setting. “All three forms of naloxone are FDA-approved and may be considered as options for community distribution and use by individuals with or without medical training to stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose,” the FDA explained.

Indeed, there is broad agreement that naloxone access is a key tactic in the battle against the opioid epidemic. Earlier this month, the American Medical Association released a national roadmap highlighting six areas where relevant stakeholders can act, including expanding access to naloxone.

Still, while access to naloxone has improved in recent years, the CDC recently released data showing that much work remains. For example, while prescriptions for naloxone doubled from 2017 to 2018, the number of naloxone prescriptions per every high-dose opioid prescription remained low, with only one naloxone prescription dispensed for every 70 high-dose opioid prescriptions. Rural counties were nearly three times more likely to be low prescribers vs. metropolitan counties. Further, pharmacies in one out of every 12 counties dispensed high-dose opioids but did not dispense naloxone.

Be sure to read the October issue of ED Management to learn more about this issue, including what the CDC recommends to remove some of the barriers to naloxone access.