Should you carry the opioid overdose rescue drug naloxone?


The US Surgeon Basic, Dr. Jerome Adams, not too long ago launched an advisory on naloxone and opioid overdose. In his advisory, Dr. Adams writes:

“For sufferers at present taking excessive doses of opioids as prescribed for ache, people misusing prescription opioids, people utilizing illicit opioids akin to heroin or fentanyl, well being care practitioners, household and associates of people that have an opioid use dysfunction, and group members who come into contact with individuals in danger for opioid overdose, realizing easy methods to use naloxone and protecting it inside attain can save a life.”

This was the primary surgeon normal advisory issued in 13 years. The earlier one raised consciousness in regards to the risks of alcohol use in being pregnant. However let’s take a look at this advisory and try to determine if it is going to really assist remedy the opioid epidemic.

What’s naloxone?

Naloxone has been round for the reason that Seventies and has been used as a mainstay remedy of opioid overdose since that point. Naloxone (typically referred to by its commerce title, Narcan) is a aggressive antagonist of the “mu” opioid receptor. This receptor is chargeable for the pain-relieving impact of opioids, however when overly activated can result in a life-threatening lower in respiratory price. In my very own observe within the emergency division, naloxone has been a part of the “coma cocktail” that we take into account giving to sufferers who’re unresponsive, together with medicines like glucose for suspected low blood sugar. For years, naloxone was a reasonable, generic drug that value lower than $1 a dose. However then, the opioid epidemic got here.

The rise in demand for naloxone

With the elevated variety of deaths from opioids, there was an pressing must broaden entry to the antidote. Within the hospital, naloxone is usually given by an intramuscular shot or IV line, however the treatment can also be conveniently absorbed into the blood provide if given within the nostril as effectively. Emergency medical technicians started utilizing nasal naloxone by jerry-rigging the IV formulation with an adapter that atomizes the medication and permits it to be sprayed within the nostril. Ultimately, protocols to make use of naloxone unfold to different first responders like cops and firefighters, who’re incessantly the primary to achieve an overdose sufferer. The ultimate step was to empower bystanders and household and associates of opioid customers to hold and use naloxone. A landmark research by Dr. Alex Walley and colleagues in 2013 demonstrated that communities the place overdose schooling and nasal naloxone distribution occurred had decrease charges of overdoses than those who didn’t.

The marketplace for naloxone will increase

With elevated demand, the price of naloxone skyrocketed. Two merchandise have been developed particularly for bystanders: model title Narcan, which is a nasal spray, and a speaking auto-injector referred to as Evzio. Each of those merchandise have been criticized due to their excessive listing costs ($150 for a two-pack of the nasal spray and $4,500 for the auto-injector). Luckily, most insurances do cowl naloxone, so most individuals are solely obligated to cowl their copay. Nonetheless, even when the price to customers is low, discovering a pharmacy that carries it may be difficult, even in New York Metropolis.

Again to the important thing query: “Must you carry naloxone?”

I might reply “sure” however with some qualifiers. Because the Surgeon Basic wrote, naloxone is handiest for individuals taking excessive doses of opioids, who’re misusing prescription opioids, or who’re utilizing illicit opioids. It is smart to have naloxone available in the event you fall into one in all these classes, or in case you are a buddy, member of the family, or group member who comes into contact with individuals in danger for overdose. You must also know that in most states, you’ll be able to request naloxone at most pharmacies with no prescription.

However I do have one essential criticism of the Surgeon Basic’s advisory. Naloxone ought to be thought of a Band-Support, however it isn’t the answer to the opioid disaster. Naloxone is simply ample to avoid wasting the lifetime of an individual who’s actively overdosing. This antidote does nothing to stop future overdoses, nor does it deal with the longer-term remedy wants of sufferers with substance use issues. I don’t imply to downplay the significance of naloxone to avoid wasting the lifetime of an overdose sufferer however saving an individual from an acute overdose is merely step one.

Moreover, in contrast to an EpiPen that individuals can self-administer if they’re having a critical allergic response, naloxone is given when an individual is unconscious and due to this fact have to be given by another person. Meaning if an individual overdoses alone, which incessantly happens, naloxone won’t assist. There are different points to think about, akin to easy methods to pay for a lot of extra naloxone kits with its expanded use and elevated value, and that the treatment does expire and have to be saved in a good temperature vary (it shouldn’t be allowed to freeze or be saved in a automotive on a sizzling day).

My hope is that this advisory is simply a primary step, and that federal and state governments will step as much as make naloxone extra reasonably priced and supply the mandatory and substantial sources required to handle the remedy necessities of the underlying substance use issues that lead individuals to undergo overdose within the first place.

Disclosures: Dr. Weiner accomplished a analysis research about opioid-induced respiratory melancholy that was funded by Kaleo, the corporate that makes the Evzio naloxone auto-injector. He additionally has possession curiosity and is on the scientific advisory board of Basic Emergency Medication Provides Corp. (an organization aiming to make public entry naloxone stations) and Epidemic Options LLC (an organization making a wearable machine that detects opioid overdose and requires assist).

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