The U.S. Surgeon General has issued the first public health advisory in years, calling on Americans to carry Naloxone, a drug that reverses the deadly effects of opioid overdoses. Surgeon General Jerome Adams characterized the advisory as the best, most immediate way to help those suffering the deadly effects of an overdose.
“Each day we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose – that’s one person every 12.5 minutes. It is time to make sure more people have access to this lifesaving medication, because 77 percent of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting and more than half occur at home,” Adams said.
Naloxone suspends the effects of an overdose temporarily until medical responders arrive. It comes in either nasal-mist or injection form and is FDA approved.
“To manage opioid addiction and prevent future overdoses, increased naloxone availability must occur in conjunction with expanded access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder,” Adams said.
All states have increased access to naloxone and in most states, you can buy the drug over the counter without a prescription. Additionally, the Surgeon General’s advisory points out, most states have passed laws protecting health care professionals who prescribe and distribute the drug from civil and criminal liabilities. Many states have also passed Good Samaritan laws that protect individuals who administer naloxone or call in an opioid overdose emergency.
In related news, CVS, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy-chains, announced today that it will offer a discount on the drug Narcan, the branded version of naloxone. The discount will be available to uninsured customers, the company said, reducing the price of a carton containing two nasal sprays from $125 to $95, the lowest price available for individuals without insurance.
President Trump last month unveiled a plan for combating the opioid epidemic that called for an expansion of first responders’ access to naloxone. It also called on states to closely monitor the number of issued opioid prescriptions through a database that can alert authorities to patients seeking an unusual amount of medication.
An estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffer from opioid abuse according to the Surgeon General’s advisory, and the death-rate of overdoses has increased significantly, doubling from 21,000 in 2010 to more than 42,000 in 2016.
The last public health advisory issued by a U.S. Surgeon General was in 2005 and warned of harmful effects of drinking alcohol while pregnant.