With the surge of heroin overdose-related deaths in the past years, health officials and pharmaceutical companies are generating efforts to curb the growing opioid epidemic. Walgreens is the latest company to step up to the task by selling heroin overdose antidote naloxone without the need for any prescription.
Heroin overdose deaths happen without the person knowing what to do. Though some may be aware of an antidote that may reverse the effects of the addicting drug, they need prescriptions to be able to buy it in pharmacies across the United States.
Health officials consider drug overdose as a medical emergency and immediate action is needed to prevent death. Walgreens announced it is joining the fight against prescription drug abuse with two new programs to subdue medication misuse and decrease the number of overdose-related deaths.
The first program involves installing safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 drugstores across 39 states and Washington. These kiosks are open for 24 hours and aim to prevent the misuse of opioids and other controlled substances.
The second program is making naloxone, an injectable or nasal spray antidote for heroin overdose, available without any prescription in all its pharmacies across 35 states and Washington.
"Walgreens pharmacists play an important role in counseling patients on the safe use of their medications, and now we are leading the way in retail pharmacy's fight against prescription drug abuse," Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of pharmacy and retail operations, says.
"We understand the challenges our communities face, and we stand ready to help our patients and customers lead healthier lives. When the stakes are this high, the solutions must be comprehensive," he adds.
Naloxone is a life-saving drug that is deemed important in the battle against heroin overdose. Many efforts have been made to offer the drug at lower prices and without prescriptions. CVS Health also offers this antidote without prescriptions across Ohio and in other states like New York. The federal government and pharmaceutical companies have also negotiated in extending the nearly 20 percent price cut for naloxone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every day, 44 Americans die from prescription opioid overdose. Opioids, primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main causes of overdose deaths in the United States. Overdose from these medications caused 28,647 deaths in 2014.
Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr