SHERIDAN — An opioid overdose-reversing drug will now be accessible over-the-counter at Albertsons pharmacy.
Narcan, a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid emergency like an overdose, now sits on the counter at Sheridan’s Albertsons Osco Pharmacy. The box contains two doses of 4 mg each in the form of a nasal spray. The medication itself blocks receptors from allowing opioids to attach for about 30 to 90 minutes.
When an overdose occurs, accidental or otherwise, it causes everything in the body to move slower and slower until it eventually shuts down. This especially affects breathing, as an opioid overdose causes respiratory depression.
Narcan, made of naloxone and hydrogen chloride, provides extra time for those overdosing to receive medical assistance. Before the Wyoming Legislature passed the Emergency Administration of Opiate Antagonist Act in July 2017, only doctors and trained medical professionals could administer or prescribe Narcan or Suboxone, another opioid treatment drug. With the passed legislation, pharmacists can now prescribe Narcan without a licensed physician.
Nikki Price, director of pharmacy operations for Albertsons and Safeway, said several states already initiated this, including Colorado and Idaho. In Sheridan, Albertsons received its first box two weeks ago. Walgreens pharmacy had yet to receive training on prescribing the medication, but pharmacist Chris Meyer with the Hospital Pharmacy United Drugs said they plan to carry it in the near future.
A large argument against carrying Narcan over-the-counter faults the drug for encouraging or allowing opioid addiction to continue. Price believes having Narcan more accessible to those prone to overdose or caregivers will save lives.
“The Narcan is there to save lives,” Price said. “It’s there not to necessarily be the answer to the root cause of the epidemic, but it’s something there that’s part of the overall solution.”
Rocky Mountain Ambulance uses the drug often for overdose medical calls. Kari Goodwin of RMA said crews experienced overdose deaths in the past, and having the gift of time because of Narcan’s accessibility might help in the future.
“We feel that it’s a good thing due to the fact that we have a lot of accidental overdoses,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin remained adamant, though, about Narcan’s purpose and function in overdose care.
“We highly recommend to people if they do purchase this and if they use it, they still need to be getting that person to the hospital or calling 911,” Goodwin said. “Because you can administer Narcan and it may pull someone out of [an overdose], but they can still go into respiratory distress. Drugs can outlast Narcan.”
For those administering Narcan to someone who overdosed, they must call for medical help or transport them to the hospital immediately, as the drug only lasts 30 to 90 minutes, if even for that long. Sometimes the first dose of Narcan won’t revive the person, so a second dose is included in the box.
Pharmacists determine need based on a patient’s opioid prescription and past history. Pharmacists compare it to a morphine milligram equivalent. If the total daily dose of the morphine milligram equivalent exceeds 50 mg each day, the patient may receive the Narcan. Price said insurance should cover the prescription for patients, but caregivers purchasing the medication must pay $150 per box.
The peace of mind for caregivers and the potential to save a life has emergency medical responders and Albertsons employees confident in the positive effect Narcan will make on the community going forward.