MORRIS COUNTY — It will be easier for New Jersey pharmacies to offer naloxone, the life-saving overdose antidote, to people without prescriptions.
Pharmacies can now apply for a standing order to dispense naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, under the Pharmacy Practice Act, which allows pharmacies without medical directors to get a standing order from the New Jersey Department of Health for the antidote medications.
“Narcan is critical to our efforts to save lives and now we are making it easier for more pharmacists to help,” said Governor Chris Christie in a statement.
Governor Christie made the announcement following President Donald Trump’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a national public health emergency last week.
One of the primary challenges that the United States faces, Christie said, is combatting the stigma associated with substance abuse. Four out of five heroin addicts start on prescription medications, many of them legally prescribed those drugs.
Americans consume 85 percent of the drugs in the world, while making up only 4 percent of the world’s population, Christie noted.
The original New Jersey law did not allow the health department to issue standing orders of this kind and only pharmacists with medical directors were able to prescribe Narcan.
The move comes amid an intense push to control the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic, which claimed 60,000 American lives last year – more than the death toll of the entire Vietnam war.
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According to state data, Police, EMTs and paramedics have administered Narcan more than 32,000 times since April 2014, including 9,500 overdose reversals this year.
The state Department of Health is now accepting standing order requests from licensed pharmacists in good standing with the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.
With a standing order, pharmacists can give the antidote to someone at risk of an overdose, to someone who may need it for a loved one or a person who may use it in emergency overdose situations, regardless if they have a prescription or not.
Pharmacists will be required to also give out information about recognizing an overdose, prevention, dosage, resuscitation and aftercare.
Narcan and other forms of naloxone are typically given to someone overdosing from opioids or heroin with a spray in the nose. Some people may need more than one dosage as they could be overdosing from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Pharmacy standing order requests to the health department should be emailed to email@example.com.
A spokesperson from CVS stated “Available without a written prescription in 41 states, naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses. CVS Pharmacy locations in most communities have naloxone on hand and can dispense it the same day or ordered for the next business day.”
Available as an injection or nasal spray, naloxone works by blocking or reversing the effects of opioids.
Walgreens, the nationwide chain of more than 8,000 pharmacies also announced that customers in 45 states will be able to buy Narcan, a brand of the drug naloxone, without a prescription.