Publication date: May 15, 2019
Between 2013 and 2016, nine states instituted laws that give pharmacists direct authority to dispense naloxone to anyone without a prescription.
Now, an NIH-funded analysis has found that within a couple of years of these new laws taking effect, fatal opioid overdoses in these states fell significantly .
In an effort to address this crisis, the federal government and many states have pursued various strategies to increase access to naloxone, which is a medication that can quickly restore breathing in a person overdosing on opioids.
But NALs in certain other states only give pharmacists indirect authority to dispense naloxone to people enrolled in certain treatment programs, or who meet other specific criteria.
In the new analysis, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a team that included Rahi Abouk, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, and Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and David Powell, RAND Corp. , Arlington, VA, asked: Do state laws to improve naloxone access lead to reductions in fatal overdoses involving opioids?
The evidence shows that states allowing pharmacists direct authority to dispense naloxone to anyone have seen large increases in the dispensing of the medication.
Specifically, the analysis showed that in the year after direct authority NALs were enacted, fatal opioid overdoses in those states fell an average of 27 percent, with even steeper declines in ensuing years.
This finding highlights the importance of combining strategies to improve naloxone access with other proven interventions and access to medications aimed to treat opioid addiction.
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