The State of Michigan is throwing a haymaker in the fight against the opioid crisis. This latest move stems from legislation passed late last year to combat what has become an epidemic.
“This here is the overdose kit that we were distributing. The same stuff that we would be giving out at the pharmacy level.”
Now people with opioid addictions or their relatives will be able to by the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone or Narcan, over the counter.
Governor Rick Snyder approved a standing order from the Department of Health and Human Services allowing pharmacies to dispense the drug.
“I think it’s very important that it’s readily available so we can save lives,” said Dr. Shaun Jayakar of St. John Providence.
The move comes as the number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses continues to rise, and the drugs are getting stronger.
“One application of Nalaxone might not be the antidote like it used to be because of the continued potency, the continued synthetic component that is being put into and utilized in the heroin that is being distributed on the street,” said Scott Masi at the Brighton Center for Recovery.
Those buying Naloxone can get enough for one treatment - but there is no limit on refills.
Before the order, only law enforcement, first responders, and doctors would administer Nalaxone. That won't be the case anymore.
“If you give this medication they become agitated, they can become restless, their heart can race so ideally it would be a medication prescribed by a doctor. However, with this epidemic of deaths due to overdoses, i think the benefits outweigh risks,” said Dr. Jayakar.
Those in need of the overdose reversal drug may experience sticker shock at their local pharmacy.
“The nasal spray is going to be around $150 without insurance. If your insurance covers it, it will just be your co-pay. It injectable, the really expensive one is going to be around $4,500 to $4,900,” said Ghada Abdullah at Park Pharmacy.
There's another potential drawback - will a readily available fix to an opioid overdose encourage more abuse?
“I personally don’t believe that this is going to be something that someone’s going to take to a party and say, ‘Hey guys we can get high just because we have this Narcan’, I really doubt that’s going to happen,” said Abdullah. “It’s just going to help save someone’s life.”
Now pharmacies have to register with the Department of Health and Human Services to dispense Naloxone, and they have to keep track of who's buying it and how much.