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State, CVS partner on OD drug~ RH 4-2-16

State, CVS partner on OD drug
By Gina Tron

Staff Writer | April 02,2 016

BARRE — Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday morning that the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, is now available to anyone to buy at CVS Pharmacy locations around Vermont. No prescription is required to make a purchase.

“Naloxone is a very important strategy … for harm reduction,” said Dr. Harry Chen, commissioner of the Department of Health in an interview Friday. “Yes, people are going to use opioids. People are going to use heroin. But, if you have the opportunity to have something that will actually save their lives in an overdose situation, naloxone is one of those things.”

Chen said naloxone is an appropriate item for purchase by a caregiver or a family member of an opiate addict.

“It saves lives, and it hopefully will give (addicts) another chance to see the light and seek treatment when the time is right,” Chen said.

The announcement took place at a CVS store in Colchester.

“Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses, and by expanding access to this medication in our Vermont pharmacies by the use of a physician’s standing order for patients without a prescription, we can help save lives,” said Tom Davis, vice president of pharmacy professional practices at CVS Pharmacy, according to a news release from the governor’s office. “We support expanding naloxone availability to give more people a chance to get the help they need for recovery …”

In 2013, the Legislature passed provisions that allow a prescription for naloxone to be written for anybody who requests it. Since late 2013, the Vermont Department of Health has been running a pilot program in which hundreds of kits, each containing two doses of naloxone — which can be administered without a needle through the nose — have been distributed to 10 sites around the state. Those sites can be found by calling 211.

“You can get naloxone for free,” Chen said of the 10 sites. “One of the barriers of going to a pharmacy is going to be cost.”

A Vermont Department of Health spokesperson said in an interview in late 2015 that there have been about 375 reported occasions since late 2013 when people believed they were overdosing and used the kit successfully. Department officials believe that figure is probably lower than the actual number of incidents.

In 2014, Shumlin announced that every Vermont state trooper would be equipped with naloxone, and that the drug will be distributed to opiate addiction treatment centers and ambulances. To date, Vermont has distributed over 7,000 of the overdose reversals kits that Shumlin’s office said have been used to reverse at least 400 overdoses.

In January 2015, the Vermont Board of Pharmacy issued a directive that allows pharmacists in Vermont to sell naloxone without a prescription. The only issue was that most pharmacies did not yet have naloxone in stock.

Starting in 2014, the Department of Health began discussions with the Pharmacy Board and CVS about stocking and selling it over the counter.

“The first challenge is having it stocked,” Chen said. “The second, is getting it without a prescription. That’s more or less enabled by the state law. Three, having a pharmacy willing to dispense it based on the statute and the rules of the pharmacy. And four, having the procedures to do it, because it’s fairly unusual that you can buy a prescription for somebody that may not be you.”

He said CVS now has an order in place that anybody can walk through the doors and get naloxone.

“They have that in place, and now they have the education and the pharmacists in place ready to educate anyone who wants it,” said Chen.

Naloxone costs about $90 for two doses without a prescription, according to Chen. But doctors can write a prescription, even if it’s not for the patient or the patient’s family, and that is often covered by Medicaid.

gina.tron @timesargus.com

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