Survey Finds Few PA Pharmacies Stock Anti-Overdose Drug Naloxone
Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is an anti-overdose drug which effectively reverses the effects of a life-threatening opioid overdose. It is thought to have saved thousands, including those who overdose on heroin and prescription painkillers.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who contacted 32 pharmacies in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, found that this essential drug isn’t available in many pharmacies. In fact, only about half of them.
In addition, a number of pharmacies seemed confused about the PA state order meant to make Narcan available for any person who could be present during an overdose. That’s anyone – no prescription needed.
Similar results were found by the Philadelphia Inquirer in Southeastern PA. Of the 14 pharmacies contacted within Philadelphia, only 10 stated that it was in stock. Only of those only 5 required no prescription, however. The remaining 4 said they simply could not obtain it.
Of 14 Montgomery County pharmacies, only 6 contacted had the drug stocked, and 2 of those required a prescription.
In October 2015, Physician General Rachel Levine signed an order which explicitly permitted access to naloxone to any person in Pennsylvania. However, it appears that some pharmacies haven’t gotten the message.
Levine stated that the administration has contacted every pharmacist in the state about the order. It has also been announced at key events and conferences.
So Why the Confusion?
Of the 16 pharmacies around Pittsburgh, about half said they had no idea where to obtain it. In addition, some pharmacy staff seemed unaware of the state order making the drug available without a prescription.
Two Oakland pharmacies said a prescription was needed. Another said a name, number, and date of birth would have to be provided. A Monessen pharmacy employee stated that it was not stocked, and the store had no plans to order it. A Brentwood pharmacy’s employee said that their store doesn’t carry the drug, but could be ordered with a prescription.
Rite Aids in the Cultural District, the North Side and Beaver said they also did not have the drug. Prices ranged from $50 or so for both the nasal product and injection. However, in one pharmacy, the caller was quoted a whopping $188.
So why are these pharmacies still in the dark? Some believe that it could be because orders are quite rare, and all new policies need time to circulate. Also, the standing order does not mandate that pharmacies carry naloxone.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology