Texas Just Made Naloxone Available Over the Counter: Here’s Why Your State Should Too
If you don’t live in the Lone Star state, you may have missed some big news about opioid overdose prevention happening now. According to a press release issued by CVS Pharmacy in late July, Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, is now available over the counter at all of their locations throughout Texas. In order to implement this unorthodox policy, CVS obtained a special standing order from Texas physicians permitting the sale of Naloxone without a prescription.
Surprisingly, CVS isn’t the first pharmacy in Texas to make Naloxone available over the counter to almost anyone who asks. In June of this year, Walgreens was officially the first pharmacy to champion broader availability of this life-saving drug, working with physicians at Baylor University to get a standing prescription that allows them to stockpile the drug and sell it at their discretion. Both pharmacies were cleared to pursue possession and at-will sales of Naloxone following the landmark passage of a bipartisan bill in the Texas Legislature this summer, loosening regulation of a substance that has the potential to put a steep curb in the number of opioid overdose deaths in Texas.
The clear safety and efficacy of Naloxone make its wide-spread availability refreshingly noncontroversial. Ahead of many treatment providers’ biggest concerns, Naloxone’s only activity in the brain corresponds to blocking opioid receptors, making it impossible to abuse. Whereas some pharmaceuticals used in addiction treatment do carry a significant risk of abuse, there’s only one thing Naloxone can do: save lives.
As deaths related to opioid abuse and overdoses reach record highs in our country, we are in desperate need of immediate, impactful interventions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that nearly 2.5 million people abuse opioids in the United States, with about 80% of addicts abusing prescription opioids. If this isn’t alarming enough, keep in mind that these statistics represent a booming growth in the number of opioid users, addicts and unintentional overdoses over the last twenty years. Deaths by unintentional overdose specifically have more than tripled from 1994 to 2014, and there’s no sign of this trend abating.
There’s no doubt the medical community will closely monitor the effects of making Naloxone more broadly available to the general public. Public health officials in Texas and beyond hope to see a significant decrease in the number of unintentional opioid overdoses as a result of this new policy, with even wider ramifications for other states looking to curb their own addiction epidemics.
When it comes to fighting the opioid crisis, we are obligated to try every ethical intervention we can to save lives. If Naloxone isn’t widely available where you live, contact your local legislator to find out what your state government is doing to help save lives in your part of the country. Don’t know where to look? Here’s a link that will help you find contact information for your national and state elected officials.