With the opioid crisis making headlines nationwide, one pharmacy chain has decided to do its part to help. At over 8,000 Walgreens locations across the country, anyone will be able to purchase a form of naloxone, commercially known as Narcan, the potentially life-saving and most successful emergency overdose treatment available today.
As reported by ABC News, Narcan is an FDA-approved form of naloxone that is administered as a nasal spray.
According to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, “[Narcan] is an incredibly safe and effective medication.” Ashton stated, “We’ve been using it in the hospital for decades, usually with a needle, intravenous or in a muscle.”
Narcan is an effective method for counteracting respiratory depression, a condition where a large dose of opioids prevents the body from sending signals to keep a person breathing, which is a common cause of death for those who overdose on prescription painkillers, heroin, or its derivatives.
According to a statement from Walgreens, pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen has distributed demonstration versions of the Narcan nasal spray to Walgreens pharmacists for free, giving pharmacists a method for showing patients how to administer the medication.
The drug will be available in 45 states without a prescription and Walgreens said the company is “eager and willing” to work with the remaining five states to make naloxone more “accessible” to their populations.
“As a pharmacy, we are committed to making Narcan more accessible in the communities we serve,” added Walgreens in their statement.
Ashton did discuss the benefits and risks associated with making Narcan widely available.
“I think the risk here is that people could say, ‘Will this give people a false sense of security and have them use opioids more if they know that they can use this immediate antidote?’” said Ashton.
But, she asserts that the benefits of increased availability are especially important.
“This drug saves lives,” said Ashton. “Think of this maybe as a defibrillator, EpiPen, another piece of lifesaving medical equipment that probably is going to be pretty widespread now.”
According to the CDC, the number of opioid overdose death has quadrupled since 1999 and that 91 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses.
President Donald Trump has called the crisis a “national emergency,” and signed an executive order creating a commission focused on curbing opioid abuse and overdoses.