The FDA held a meeting to discuss the prospect of naloxone, the antidote for opioid overdose, being made available without a prescription in the US. Opioids are the classification of drug responsible for the highest number of overdoses and about 15,000 people die due to an opiate overdose every year. The hope is that making naloxone available over the counter will help fight the problem.
Benefits of Providing Naloxone Without a Prescription
Evidence shows that offering naloxone to those who need it without restriction decreases the rate of overdose. For example, naloxone has been available in both Sweden and Italy without prescription for a number of years without incident. Also, naloxone carries no possibility of addiction or toxicity.
Unfortunately, most people who could benefit from naloxone have never heard about it and those who have don’t know where to get it. It may be due in part to the fact that the media tends to sensationalize stories of addiction rather than highlight resources for those who need access to an effective overdose antidote. It may also be due to the fact that few people know it is available by prescription and those who do don’t feel comfortable asking for that prescription from their doctor because it means admitting to having an issue with opiate addiction – and many use their doctors to try and get opiate prescription drugs.
Overdose Victims’ Parents Fight to Advertise the Lifesaving Potential of Naloxone
Roughly 25 people came forward to testify in front of the FDA panel, and the majority of them were family members of an opiate overdose victim. Most wanted someone to explain why naloxone hasn’t been a larger topic in the media and drug education campaigns. They questioned why this lifesaving solution is not more well known, especially considering the fact that overdose due to opiate prescription drugs like OxyContin is one of the leading causes of death in the country.
Research Shows That Naloxone Is a Safe Over-the-Counter Option
The research is clear: Over-the-counter naloxone can only decrease the number of lives lost to prescription drug addiction and overdose. In studies that have followed community naloxone distribution programs, a phenomenal success rate has always been reported. Of the 50,000 doses handed out by programs nationwide, 10,000 of them successfully stopped an overdose from taking someone’s life – and there have been zero reports of negative side effects.
Some who are wary of the naloxone over-the-counter option are not worried about immediate safety but want the dose to be given with information on rehabilitation treatment programs. They fear that if someone gets naloxone over the counter rather than from their doctor, they could potentially miss the opportunity to learn more about addiction treatment. While proponents of over-the-counter naloxone agree that there will be less communication about rehab, they point out that those who don’t get the drug may not live to learn more about rehab in another context.
Do you think naloxone doses should only be given along with verbal rehab information? Or do you think it should be given out in any way that reaches the most people that need it? Let us know your opinions below.