NARCAN WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION
Who can request Narcan from Community First Pharmacy without a prescription?
- An individual who is experiencing an opioid-related overdose
- A family member, friend or other person in a position to assist someone who is at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose
- A police officer as defined by Ohio state law
Source: Ashley Hoehn, pharmacy manager, Community First Pharmacy
A non-profit Hamilton pharmacy has become one of only 23 pharmacies in Ohio approved to dispense Narcan, the drug that reverses the effects of heroin and opiate-related overdoses, without a prescription.
Officials with Community First Pharmacy, a subsidiary of Community First Solutions, said they have been given the green light by the Ohio Pharmacy Board for the physician-approved protocol for dispensing Narcan, also known as Naloxone. While the drug is currently available at several pharmacies with a prescription, including some area Walgreen’s, Community First Pharmacy would be the only one in Butler County authorized to provide it over the counter without one.
The scourge of heroin and opiate overdoses in the county over the past year set a record, as 2015 saw more than 130 total drug overdoses, with the county coroner’s office attributing 107 of those as heroin-related.
Overall, more than 13,000 Ohioans have lost their lives to drug overdoses since 1999 at an average rate of five people a day, and the leading cause of most overdose deaths are opiates, such as heroin and prescription painkillers, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Ashley Hoehn, pharmacy manager at Community First Pharmacy, has been in her job for three years. She said she began to take notice of the problem and wanted to find a way to help curb the overdose deaths.
“In Hamilton there has been a huge heroin epidemic along with abuse of pain medications recently,” Hoehn said. “We started working with the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, and we wanted to provide an outreach to the community and give them the access to Narcan to help prevent death by overdose.”
The partnership proved to be a fruitful one, as Hoehn put in the legwork with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy so Community First could get the OK to dispense Narcan without a prescription.
“Narcan reverses the effects of the drug being used and brings a person back out of an overdose state to save their life,” Hoehn said. “This type of drug is not a danger to society, but without Narcan, a person who needs it might not see another day. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has a website that is helpful in guiding you through how to get approval.”
Some critics, however, have claimed that wider access to Narcan could promote drug use by giving users a sense of security in case of an overdose.
Laura Sheehan, vice-president of Behavioral Health at Community First Solutions, said the program should be a positive tool to help save lives, and she is happy to see Butler County get one up and running.
“Like many in our community, we are extremely concerned about the opiate overdose. This partnership with Community First Pharmacy and the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board allows us to help break down some of the barriers that exist in receiving care,” she said.
Julie Payton of the Recovery Services Board and Sheehan both hope that the treatment for an overdose actually leads to a more comprehensive evaluation of the person suffering from an addiction.
“My hope is that this allows us be able to provide more access to the immediate care needed, but will also bring more awareness to the services that are available at Community Behavioral Health to help individuals and their families overcome addiction,” Sheehan said.
Dr. Kenneth Tepe, prescribing psychiatrist at Community Behavioral Health, also helped Butler County get approval for the Narcan program, as he gave the pharmacy permission to dispense the drug, which was the last hurdle to clear.
Medicaid and some other insurance plans will pick up the cost for the Narcan. Hoehn, displayed a packet containing all of the tools needed to use the drug. One option is to dispense it nasally and that requires a device called a nasal atomizer that Medicaid and some insurance plans don’t cover — it can cost $7 to $8 dollars out-of-pocket.
But the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board has provided $5,000 in funding to support the program and cover costs associated with administering the drug.
Hoehn said one of the important aspects about the program is that individuals receive training on how to administer Narcan.
CVS has expanded nonprescription access to Narcan at pharmacies in 12 states, not including Ohio. Michael DeAngelis, CVS spokesman, said Naloxone is not stocked in Ohio stores but can be ordered for a customer with a prescription for availability typically the next day.
Staff writer Lauren Pack contributed to this report.