Naloxone has been referred to many as the “second-chance drug.” It is a medication that is administered with an injection or by a nasal spray. As soon as the medication is administered to the patient who is in the midst of an opiate overdose, the overdose is overturned and the patient becomes stable. A mandatory trip to the hospital follows, but amazingly the patient has survived an overdose where in the majority of cases would have died if Naloxone (Narcan) was not administered.
The medication has become the hot topic of the opiate epidemic. The opiate epidemic is rampaging through every state and town around the United States claiming more lives than car accidents. In the state of Pennsylvania, six or seven people die daily from opiate overdoses. These numbers are far too high.
State governments were being applauded for pushing Naloxone into first responders packs and small cities and town followed suit. Most law enforcement, firemen, and paramedics now carry Naloxone on their person in case of an overdose call. It became very obvious that this drug was needed on the front lines. Too many police officers were arriving at possible opiate overdose scenes and having to call it in to paramedics. By the time paramedics were able to obtain the medication and make it to the scene, the patient would be dead.
To many politicians, having it strictly available to first responders was not enough. Naloxone has no risk of being abused and does nothing to someone who takes it accidentally. Because of how safe the medication is, states are pushing for the medication to be made available without prescription to anyone who wants it. On Wednesday, with the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf watching, state Physician General Rachel Levine signed a standing order, essentially a statewide prescription, allowing willing pharmacies to dispense Naloxone to anyone requesting it.
Naloxone has been around since the ‘70s and has saved a remarkable 26,463 lives nationwide in the past 20 years according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Pennsylvania alone, police have saved 320 lives this year, with more lives being saved by emergency health officials and bystanders.
“We have an epidemic the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Mr. Wolf said, during the news conference at the Pennsylvania Medical Society in Harrisburg. “Prescription-drug abuse is a major problem in Pennsylvania and this issue affects a lot of people. Heroin and opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, responsible for 2,400 deaths in 2014.
“This is a disease like cancer, heart disease and diabetes,” the governor said. “We have to address it is just like we’ve addressed other diseases.”
Hopefully more states will follow suit.