Article by Minali Nigam, 2016 NCMS Foundation Medical Journalism Intern
Last Monday at a press conference at the Guilford County’s Sheriff Office, Governor Pat McCrory signed Senate Bill 724, which allows people in North Carolina to get naloxone at pharmacies without a prescription. Naloxone is a drug that acts as an opioid antagonist and can be used to treat drug overdoses. The bill received unanimous support at every legislative step, working its way through five committees and eight different votes, in both the House and Senate.
North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) Board member Jeffrey Runge, MD, and NCMS member Joshua Landau, MD, both stood behind the Governor as he signed the bill into law and as NC State Health Director Randall Williams, MD, signed the statewide standing order. Dr. Williams lauded the NCMS’ support of the bill and efforts to curb prescription drug abuse as seen in the weekly Bowtie Briefing video last Friday.
NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Richard Brajer noted that last year almost 1,000 people in the state died from drug overdoses. These deaths, he said, could have been “reversible” had naloxone been readily accessible.
In 2013, North Carolina’s Good Samaritan Law allowed emergency responders to carry and use naloxone. Now, with the statewide standing order, Dr. Williams said any licensed pharmacist can dispense the drug to someone who is at risk or knows someone at risk for opioid overdose.
Pharmacists can choose to dispense the intranasal or intramuscular form of naloxone. The intramuscular form is cheaper, but the branded intranasal form called Narcan, is easy to administer. Medicaid will cover all the options listed in the standing order, but otherwise prices will vary depending on the insurance plan.
Without insurance, cost estimates for Narcan range from $150 to $180.
Pharmacies participating in the standing order are encouraged, but not required, to register on the North Carolina Division of Public Health’s educational website for naloxone. CVS and Walgreens have their own standing orders but will be switching over to the statewide standing order in the upcoming months.
“Our immediate issue is trying to save lives.” Governor McCrory said. At the end of the press conference, he reiterated the commitment to stop drug overdoses seen across the State.
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