In order to help fight the heroin epidemic in the northeast United States, Kroger supermarkets and CVS pharmacies will carry the anti-overdose (opioid antagonist) drug naloxone (trade name: Narcan) over the counter:
Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger Co. said Friday it will make the overdose-reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription in its pharmacies across Ohio and northern Kentucky, a region hard-hit by deadly heroin. Kroger said more than 200 of its pharmacies will offer naloxone over the counter within days. "We want families dealing with addiction to know that they can count on having the drug available in the event that they need it," Jeff Talbot, Kroger vice president of merchandising, said in a statement.
Ohio fire crews and other first responders use naloxone thousands of times a year to revive opioid overdose victims. Ohio overdose deaths jumped 18 percent in 2014, one of the nation's sharpest increases. Those on the front lines of the battle against heroin's spread have increasingly supported allowing and educating families and friends of addicts to administer naloxone in emergencies.
State regulators in Ohio and Kentucky have allowed the drug to be sold over the counter. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Kroger officials at a Cincinnati grocery store for the retailer's announcement. Portman has been pushing a multi-pronged heroin bill in the Senate that includes expanded availability of naloxone. "This marks an important step in our fight to combat addiction and we all need to continue to work for a bottom-up, comprehensive approach to the heroin epidemic," Portman, from the Cincinnati area, said in a statement.
CVS said recently it will soon offer naloxone without a prescription at its Ohio pharmacies.
Naloxone became available over the counter in Australia on February 1.
In the U.S., there are currently a patchwork of state laws which govern access to Naloxone.
In the U.K. as of 1 October, 2015, "...[A]ny worker in a commissioned drug service can now distribute naloxone without prescription."
The White House announced a new Heroin Response Strategy on Monday to combat a "heroin/opioid epidemic" across 15 states in the northeast:
The Office of National Drug Control Policy said it would spend $2.5 million to hire public safety and public health coordinators in five areas in an attempt to focus on the treatment, rather than the punishment, of addicts. The funding — a sliver of the $25.1 billion that the government spends every year to combat drug use — will help create a new "heroin response strategy" aimed at confronting the increase in use of the drug. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heroin-related deaths had nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.
[...] Once thought of as a drug used only by hard-core addicts, heroin has infiltrated many communities, largely because of its easy availability and its low price, officials said. The problem has become especially severe in New England, where officials have called for a renewed effort to confront it. Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State Message in January to what he called "a full-blown heroin crisis" in his state. Like the new White House effort, the governor called for a new, treatment-based approach to the drug.
[More after the break...]
Gina Kolata reports at The New York Times that something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling, primarily because of the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites who are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans. "It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude," say Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner.
Though not fully understood, the increased deaths are largely thought to be a result of more suicides and the misuse of drugs and alcohol, driven by easier access to powerful prescription painkillers, cheaper high quality heroin and greater financial stresses. Death rates for people with a high school education or less rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education. The rise in death rates among middle-aged white Americans means half a million more people have died in the US since 1998 than if the previous trend had continued. The death toll is comparable to the 650,000 Americans who lost their lives during the Aids epidemic from 1981 to the middle of this year, the researchers say. Anne Case and Angus Deaton warn that middle-aged Americans who are turning to drink and drugs are set to suffer more health problems than their elders unless the downwards trend can be halted. "This is not automatic. If the epidemic is brought under control, its survivors may have a healthy old age. However, addictions are hard to treat and pain is hard to control, so those currently in midlife may be a 'lost generation' whose future is less bright than those who preceded them."
It's that time of the year again. Time to talk about drugs and the war on them because some stoners declared a holiday or something.
At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. "You want to know what this was really all about?" he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
[Oh yes, it continues...]
NPR is reporting on the latest drug scare, involving an over-the-counter antidiarrheal drug that is being used for its opioid-like effects by addicts:
Some people addicted to oxycodone and other opioids are now turning to widely available diarrhea medications to manage their withdrawal symptoms or get high. The results can be dangerous to the heart — and sometimes fatal — warn toxicologists in a study [open, DOI: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2016.03.047] recently published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
The researchers describe two case studies where people who were addicted to opioids tried to ease their withdrawal symptoms by taking many times the recommended dose of loperamide, a drug commonly used treat diarrhea. Both patients died.
"Because of its low cost, ease of accessibility and legal status, it's a drug that is very, very ripe for abuse," says lead author William Eggleston, a doctor of pharmacy and fellow in clinical toxicology at the Upstate New York Poison Center, which is affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University.
The Obama administration is loosening restrictions on buprenorphine/Suboxone prescriptions in order to fight the "heroin epidemic", while calling on Congress to act on a request for $1.1 billion in additional funding for opioid treatment programs across the U.S.:
The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine. Doctors who are licensed to prescribe the drug, which is sold mostly under the brand name Suboxone, will be allowed to treat as many as 275 patients a year. That's almost triple the current limit of 100, and HHS estimated that as many as 70,000 more people may have access to the drug as a result.
"There are a number of ways we are trying to increase access to medication-assisted treatment," said Michael Botticelli, the director of national drug control policy, on a conference call with reporters. "This rule itself expands access and gets more physicians to reach more patients."
Suboxone is itself an opioid. It eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but doesn't make people high. [...] Botticelli said an average 129 people a day die from opioid overdoses.
White House Announces Heroin Response Strategy for the US Northeast
Alarming Rise in Death Rates for Middle-Aged White Americans
Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
4/20: Half-Baked Headline
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has urged more Americans to carry the opioid overdose reversal treatment naloxone, known under brand names such as Narcan and Evzio. However, the drug and its delivery systems have become more expensive in recent years:
As opioid-related deaths have continued to climb, naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses, has become an important part of the public health response. When people overdosing struggle to breathe, naloxone can restore normal breathing and save their lives. But the drug has to be given quickly.
On Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that encouraged more people to routinely carry naloxone. "The call to action is to recognize if you're at risk," he tells Morning Edition's Rachel Martin. "And if you or a loved one are at risk, keep within reach, know how to use naloxone."
[...] The medicine is now available at retail pharmacies in most states without a prescription. Between 2013 and 2015, researchers found a tenfold increase in naloxone sold by retail pharmacies in the U.S. But prices have increased along with demand. Naloxone-filled syringes that used to cost $6 apiece now cost $30 and up. A two-pack of naloxone nasal spray can cost $135 or more. And a two-pack of automatic naloxone injectors runs more than $3,700. And while it's true that naloxone can prevent many opioid-related deaths, it doesn't solve the root cause of the problem.
Related: Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
Chicago Jail Handing Out Naloxone to Inmates Upon Release
Opioid Crisis Official; Insys Therapeutics Billionaire Founder Charged; Walgreens Stocks Narcan
Cook County now gives at-risk inmates the overdose-reversing drug naloxone upon their release from jail and Los Angeles is poised to follow suit, putting the antidote in as many hands as possible as part of a multifaceted approach to combatting the nation's opioid epidemic.
Cook County Jail, the largest single-site jail in the country, has trained about 900 inmates how to use naloxone nasal spray devices since last summer and has distributed 400 of them to at-risk men and women as they got out. The devices can undo the effects of an opiate overdose almost immediately and are identical to those used by officers in many of the country's law enforcement agencies.
[...] It is too soon to gauge the effectiveness of Cook County's program, but Dart said anecdotal evidence suggests that the kits have saved lives, including a man who was arrested again, returned to jail, and told of how a friend he had trained to use the kit had done so when he overdosed. In New York City, more than 4,000 kits have been distributed to friends and relatives of inmates at the city's jail at Rikers Island since the program there was launched in 2014.
Related: Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
Obama Administration Expands Access to Suboxone Treatment
One Upside to Opioid Overdoses: More Organ Donors
Development of a Heroin Vaccine