SALT LAKE CITY — An order given by the Utah Department of Health making it significantly easier for pharmacies to give out naloxone resulted in 4,275 doses of the rescue medication being dispensed in 2017, the department announced this week.
A standing order issued in December 2016 by Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the department, allowed pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.
“Every dose of naloxone we get out in our communities represents a potential life saved,” Miner said in a statement. “I urge all pharmacies across the state to enroll in the standing order and help Utahns access this lifesaving medication.”
The order was made possible by a law passed by the Utah Legislature in 2016.
The order did not require all pharmacies to participate, but those that did submitted data to the state detailing how much naloxone was given out as part of the program, said Department of Health spokeswoman Jenny Johnson. A total of 165 pharmacies participated in the program in 2017.
Naloxone is a drug that can be used to reverse the effects of a serious opioid overdose and can be lifesaving in some instances. It can be administered with a needle injection or a nasal spray, depending on the kit it comes with. It is safe to use on a person even if it turns out they are not experiencing an overdose, and is not addictive, health officials have said.
While it isn’t clear how many reversals may have resulted from the naloxone given out by pharmacies under the state’s order, Johnson said that “there were 99 naloxone reversals in 2017 as a direct result of outreach efforts by the (department), local agencies and syringe exchange providers across the state,” according to available data.
In addition, the Utah Naloxone Association, housed and supported by the University of Utah Department of Pediatrics, reports it has delivered 17,200 naloxone kits — equivalent to 34,400 doses — since July 2015.
Dr. Jennifer Plumb, medical director of the association and a professor of pediatrics at the U., said 2,056 overdose reversals have been attributed to the organization’s kits during that time.
The naloxone prescription statistics are “a result of pharmacists starting conversations” with patients, said Angela Stander, prescription overdose coordinator for the Utah Department of Health.
“Pharmacists are taking an active role in this epidemic,” she said. “They’re that last chance before the opioid goes home with that patient … (to) intervene and do some education.”
Stander said Miner issued the order in the first place because the department decided it “needed to get (naloxone) into the homes of those who had received (opioid) prescriptions from their physicians.”
Large hospital systems such Intermountain Healthcare had already made it a protocol to allow its pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a doctor’s prescription, according to Stander.
Because of that, it was rural, locally owned pharmacies that “benefitted the most from having a statewide standing order” lifting the requirement on having a prescription before getting naloxone, she said.
Participating rural pharmacies gave out 2,914 doses of naloxone, while 1,361 doses were dispensed by …read more
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