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Should You Carry Naloxone to Prevent Opioid Overdose?

More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. This total includes deaths caused by illicit drugs and prescription opioids, and it is a two-fold increase compared to just ten years earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .

You may have heard a lot about naloxone recently in the news or in social circles as being a powerful tool in face of an opioid overdose. Below, Ken Majkowski, Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize, answers some of the common questions people are asking about the drug and how it works.

What is Naloxone and How Does it Work?

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose of narcotics such as heroin, morphine, and other opioid painkillers. The medical community has used it for years to save lives, and in some communities, police officers and EMTs carry the drug in the field to stop overdoses.

When people overdose on an opioid, like fentanyl, heroin, or prescription painkillers, their breathing slows to a dangerously low rate. If administered quickly to someone who is overdosing, naloxone blocks the brain’s opioid receptors and restores normal breathing. The drug’s effects last for 30 to 90 minutes, which ideally buys enough time to get medical attention.

How is Naloxone Administered?

A pocket-size device that contains an injectable form of naloxone is available for use, and the medication can be administered into a vein, into a muscle, or under the skin. A branded nasal spray version, called Narcan, has also been approved for use and requires no special training to administer.

Who Should Carry Naloxone?

In April 2018, the United States Surgeon General issued a rare national advisory regarding the opioid epidemic and the use of naloxone. In the advisory, he recommended that the following groups of people carry and know how to administer naloxone to save lives:

  • Patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain
  • Individuals misusing prescription opioids
  • Individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl
  • Healthcare practitioners
  • Family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder
  • Community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose

In most states, people who are or who know someone at risk for opioid overdose can go to a pharmacy or community-based program and receive naloxone without a patient-specific prescription. For example, naloxone or Narcan has been available in popular pharmacies across Illinois since 2016. People who wish to purchase it are required to have a consultation with the pharmacist before any medication is handed over, but the process is relatively quick and nothing is reported back to the police.

How Much Does Naloxone or Narcan Cost?

Like all medications, prices vary from pharmacy to pharmacy . According to a recent report by Time , most insurance plans cover naloxone, and many community-based organizations or public health programs provide the drug for free. Generic naloxone can cost between $20 and $40 per dose, while Narcan can cost around $130 to $140 for a kit that includes two doses. Using a pharmacy discount card , like FamilyWize, can sometimes cut those prices by half. Try our drug price comparison tool to check naloxone and Narcan prices in your area.

This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series by Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D, the Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize. Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio here .

 

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