More than 1,000 pharmacies across the state, including in Clark and Champaign counties, now offer the overdose reversal medicine Narcan without a prescription.
This news comes as law enforcement, emergency crews and addiction specialists across Ohio continue their battle against drug addiction and heroin overdoses that have killed thousands.
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Naloxone — more commonly known by the brand-name Narcan — is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by prescription opioids, heroin or fentanyl.
When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and can restore breathing in a matter of minutes.
Accidental drug overdoses killed 3,050 people in Ohio last year, an average of eight per day, according to the latest state data.
In Clark County, 72 people died of unintentional drug overdoses in 2015. Through May of this year, 28 people died from overdoses, according to the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
Last year seven people died from overdoses in Champaign County and so far this year there’s been six confirmed overdose deaths, Champaign County Coroner Joshua Richards said.
Health advocates urged drug users and their family and friends to get the overdose kits in case an emergency happens in their homes.
Two pharmacies in Urbana — CVS at 719 Scioto St. and the Kroger on U.S. 36 — and 13 pharmacies in Clark County including many Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and Meijer stores will sell the kits.
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Easier access to the overdose antidote could hopefully save more lives, local treatment experts said.
“I’m just always grateful to see lawmakers are understanding of the magnitude of the problem we’re dealing with,” McKinley Hall CEO Wendy Doolittle said.
McKinley Hall offers a variety of treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction. It has handed out nearly 200 naloxone kits through grants for more than a year.
But some family members of addicts or addicts themselves might be ashamed to come to McKinley Hall and could benefit from being able to buy Narcan in a pharmacy.
“It will take away some of the obstacles,” Doolittle said.
Madison Avenue Pharmacy, 640 N. Fountain Ave., has the nasal-spray version of Narcan kits available, owner Eric Juergens said.
“We have to try to save lives and this is a help — not a cure or treatment — but it maybe buys a person another chance to get help,” Juergens said.
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The Madison Avenue Pharmacy works closely with McKinley Hall and other local treatment programs, he said.
Kits of two Narcan doses will cost around $150, Juergens said, but he has heard some individual insurance policies are covering part or all of the costs.
The drug should be free for people on Medicaid, Doolittle said.
The Springfield Fire/Rescue Division administered nearly 800 doses of Narcan on 370 patients last year, according to city data. Through the end of July this year, Springfield medics have used 317 doses on 154 overdoses.
Clark County Sheriff’s deputies and county medics have used at least 49 doses of Narcan on 55 overdose calls this year.
To expand access to naloxone, Ohio Gov. Kasich signed House Bill 4 in 2015, allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription to an at-risk opioid user or a friend, family member or other individual who can intervene in the event of an overdose.
“Every minute counts,” Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said about his deputies carrying the drug.