Surgeon General releases naloxone advisory

APhA continues to support the pharmacist’s role in increasing access to naloxone

Today’s Surgeon General advisory on naloxone recommends that family, friends, and those personally at risk for an opioid overdose keep the medication on hand.  

Naloxone-based medications have received FDA approval and can be administered via nasal mist or injection, temporarily suspending the effects of the overdose until emergency responders arrive. Although naloxone is already carried by many first responders, those using naloxone must still contact emergency services.

Making naloxone more widely available beyond hospitals, emergency departments, and emergency medical transport is a relatively recent occurrence. Expanding the use of naloxone and education about use are key parts of the public health response to the opioid crisis, along with effective prevention, treatment, and recovery programs for opioid use disorder.

“Each day we lose 115 Americans to an opioid overdose—that’s one person every 12.5 minutes,” VADM Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, the U.S. Surgeon General, said in a statement. “It is time to make sure more people have access to this life-saving medication, because 77% of opioid overdose deaths occur outside of a medical setting, and more than half occur at home.”

All states have passed laws to increase access to naloxone, including at community pharmacies. In most states, people can walk into a pharmacy and request naloxone without already having a prescription. Patients and their friends and family can also learn more about naloxone from their pharmacist.

Several states have turned to pharmacists to increase patient access through pharmacist prescribing of naloxone, facilitated through a statewide protocol or existing pharmacist collaborative practice authority, among other approaches.

Most states also have laws designed to protect health professionals who prescribe and dispense naloxone from civil and criminal liabilities, as well as Good Samaritan laws to protect people who administer naloxone or call for help during an opioid overdose emergency.

“APhA applauds the U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory on naloxone. Pharmacists are medication experts who can provide patients and their loved ones with naloxone, along with crucial education on naloxone administration,” said APhA Executive Vice President and CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA.

“APhA encourages the development, dissemination, and incentivization of naloxone-related education to patients and caregivers as well as to all members of the health care team,” Menighan added.

APhA continues to support the pharmacist’s role in increasing access to naloxone through its development of online resources such as the Opioid Resource Center; live opioid-related sessions at the 2018 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition, including the APhA Pain Institute; and many continuing education opportunities related to opioid abuse, misuse, and treatment that are available online and in person.

Further APhA resources to highlight include the Pain, Palliative Care and Addiction Special Interest Group, the APhA Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies, and APhA’s collaboration with other organizations on GenerationRx. In addition, the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association recently published a special issue on naloxone.