PA Expands Naloxone Access at Pharmacies
HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNows) - This week, state officials and the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association discussed updates to the state’s Naloxone Standing Order. First signed in 2015, the Naloxone Standing Order provides first responders and members of the public with access to the opioid reverser.
“Having naloxone on hand is like having a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. The intent is to never to actually have to use it, but should an accident occur, you're quite thankful that you have it,” said Victoria Elliott, CEO of Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.
For Pennsylvanians, it just got a bit easier to obtain different forms of naloxone, the FDA approved medication that reverses an opioid overdose by restoring breathing, if a person's breathing has slowed or stopped.
The Wolf Administration instituted the first standing orders allowing the general public and first responders to obtain naloxone from their local pharmacy. In 2022 the standing order expanded to include an eight milligram naloxone nasal spray, ZIMHI, a 5 milligram (mg) intra-muscular injection device, and most recently, a non-prefilled syringe option with two single-dose vials of naloxone that is injectable.
“Accessing naloxone is step one in helping to save a life,” said Steve Ross, Special Assistant to the Secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP). “Every Pennsylvanian can access naloxone through their local pharmacy using the Naloxone Standing Order,” he added.
Medical training and familiarity with naloxone and its different forms is strongly encouraged. However, it can be easily administered by any individual in the event of an overdose.
Officials say in areas where naloxone is prevalent, it's shown to reduce hospitalizations by more than 60 percent. Still, Pennsylvania is seeing about 15 fatal overdoses each day - a sobering statistic attributed to the rise of fentanyl.
“Introduction of fentanyl has changed the dynamic. It's raised the stakes dramatically,” said Chuck Kray, the Owner of Hershey Pharmacy. “The simple reality is that your community pharmacy is the easiest access point for obtaining naloxone to potentially save a life. Stop in and ask your pharmacist how you can possibly help to save someone's life by obtaining, carrying and knowing how to use naloxone,” Kray added.
“By adding different forms of naloxone to the standing order and encouraging availability of these products at pharmacies across the commonwealth, we’re giving Pennsylvanians additional resources for combatting the increase in fentanyl,” said Ross.
Officials say the significance of the order cannot be emphasized enough because anybody can act as a first responder if they witness an overdose.
“You might have the opportunity to save the life of someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania partners with Prevention Point Pittsburgh and NEXT Distro to support a statewide mail-based naloxone program for residents to request and receive naloxone for free by mail.
For additional information on naloxone and opioid overdoses, you can find it all here.