According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2015.Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html More than 60 percent involved an opioid.Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
We know that Americans from all walks of life are finding that prescription drug abuse is hitting closer and closer to home; nearly one in three Americans report that they have been personally affected, according to a recent survey conducted by CVS Health.
While abuse-prevention education and outreach programs are vital for curbing drug misuse and abuse, one strategy that can help communities address overdoses in the moment is ensuring access to the life-saving drug naloxone.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a lifesaving drug that blocks opioid receptor sites to reverse the effects of an overdose.The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/Naloxone Over the past two years CVS Health has worked to expand access to naloxone without individual prescriptions in 43 states, most recently to CVS Pharmacy patients in Arizona.
Increasing Access to Naloxone Saves Lives
Many states have recently passed Naloxone Access Laws (NALs) that widen access to naloxone by providing specific statutory protections for nonmedical professionals to possess and administer naloxone without a prescription. This enables any person without a prescription to have naloxone and to give it to a person showing signs of an opioid overdose without having to fear legal repercussions.National Conference of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/drug-overdose-immunity-good-samaritan-laws.aspx
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER),National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/papers/w23171.pdf states that have adopted NALs have seen a nine to 11 percent reduction in opioid-related deaths. This research underscores the importance of increasing access to naloxone as part of a larger strategy to address the impact of prescription drug abuse.
Community Leaders Amplify Naloxone’s Value
During an event hosted by CVS Health, Arizona State Attorney General Mark Brnovich and State Representative Heather Carter joined CVS Health in announcing that naloxone would be available at all Arizona CVS Pharmacy locations without a prescription. Their remarks echoed the importance of naloxone in addressing prescription drug abuse and opioid abuse more broadly.
“The opioid epidemic is an urgent public health crisis facing Arizona and the entire country,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “We want to ensure that Arizona families who have loved ones struggling with addiction have access to naloxone because it saves lives.”
Representative Carter, a sponsor of the naloxone access legislation signed into law last year, added, “The main purpose behind the legislation I sponsored was to get this medication in the hands of a person who may have an opportunity to save a life.”
Our Ongoing Work
Opioid abuse is an epidemic that does not discriminate, and it continues to be an area of great concern and focus for CVS Health. There is no single cause to the problem, and the solution will require a multipronged effort including pharmacy, physicians, the pharmaceutical industry and government.
In addition to expanding access to naloxone, CVS Health is working to help communities address prescription drug abuse through education, outreach and safe medication disposal:
CVS Health’s Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program has donated more than 800 collection units to law enforcement partners across the country, allowing for the safe disposal of more than 100 metric tons of unwanted medication. This program offers an online search tool through which anyone can find a drop box location near them.
Pharmacists volunteering through the company's Pharmacists Teach program have helped educate more than 250,000 students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
For more information about our efforts in the fight against opioid abuse, visit our Prescription Drug Abuse information center. And to stay informed about the most talked-about topics in health care, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.
This article was originally published on June 8, 2017, and was updated to reflect current data on September 21, 2017.