As the opioid overdose epidemic continues to take hundreds of lives each week, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) has issued a policy statement promoting an active role for pharmacists in expanding access to the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone. Nearly 17,000 people died from an overdose involving an opioid analgesic in 2011, four times the number of prescription opioid-related deaths in 1999. State-approved naloxone programs prepare laypersons and emergency responders to administer naloxone to individuals who are experiencing an overdose, with many state laws now allowing pharmacists to dispense the drug to family and friends of a person at risk.
Recognizing that pharmacists can play an important role in such programs, NABP has issued the following policy statement:
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) resolves to address the drug overdose epidemic crippling our nation by engaging with state and federal officials and representatives from national associations to support programs that involve an active role for pharmacists in expanding access to the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone. NABP commends the success of municipalities such as Quincy, MA, whose first responders have successfully reversed over 200 opioid overdoses by initiating the nation’s first municipal naloxone program. NABP recognizes the value of pharmacists in assuring optimal medication therapy and promotes the pharmacist’s role in delivering opioid overdose reversal therapy.
Currently, at least 25 states have passed legislation to expand naloxone access and availability, with varied requirements for who may prescribe, dispense, and administer the drug. Of these 25, at least three states have passed laws granting pharmacists authority to prescribe naloxone or dispense the drug without a prescription under certain conditions. In use since the 1970s, naloxone is a drug that can be administered as an injection to a victim experiencing a heroin or prescription opioid overdose and quickly reverses the respiration-depressing effects that can be fatal. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that naloxone programs for drug users and their caregivers reversed over 10,000 overdoses from 1996 to 2010.
Equipping first responders with naloxone expanded access to the life-saving drug in Quincy, MA, and similar naloxone programs have been established in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, with more programs emerging nationwide.
In addition to issuing the new policy statement, NABP has held several task forces on issues related to prescription drug abuse, including the most recent held September 9-10, 2014. NABP also has been active in educating consumers about prescription drug abuse and prevention through the AWARXE® Prescription Drug Safety Program, and information and educational resources on these topics are available on the program’s website.