Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Colorado public health officials pushing overdose antidote Naloxone

From: Denver Post

There is a narcotic that public health officials and researchers are practically begging pharmacists to push and users to inject or inhale.

Naloxone is a narcotic drug that reverses the effects of other narcotic drugs such as heroin or prescription opioids, including OxyContin.

It is an antidote for opiate overdose.

Colorado lawmakers have passed two measures — the latest effective July 1 — intended to expand use of naloxone, also known by brand names Narcan and Evzio.

"It's not recovery from addiction. It just saves lives," said University of Colorado Hospital ER nurse Dawn O'Keefe. She used it to save her son's life when he overdosed during his battle with addiction.

Public health officials are promoting the use of the drug naloxone to help save people from opioid overdoses, a life-saving measure few know about in the midst of this epidemic. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

"Every parent, everyone, needs to have access to this drug," O'Keefe said. "I'm so surprised by the people who don't know anything about it."

Her son got his second chance and is in recovery, she said.

A naloxone shot, injected into the arm or leg, or nasal spray, temporarily knocks the original overdosed opioid off the brain's receptors, temporarily restoring normal breathing and buying time for a patient to get to a hospital.

In May 2013, the Colorado legislature passed a law that doctors could prescribe it not only to opiate users, but to third parties — family members and loved ones.

"Prescribers still were not prescribing enough of it," said Lisa Raville, director of Denver's Harm Reduction Action Center, a drug education, counseling and treatment center.

A recent Kaiser Permanente study showed Colorado clinicians hesitated to prescribe naloxone to patients for fear of offending them or encouraging riskier behavior with narcotics, even though they understood its potential to prevent deaths.

"We're in the middle of an epidemic," Raville said, "and this could save lives. So we went back and passed another law this year."

Under the May 2015 law that just went into effect, pharmacies, harm-reduction organizations and first responders can, under standing orders from a physician, provide the drug to any users and third parties requesting it.

Dr. Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the state's chief medical officer, set up a blanket standing order under his license to cover pharmacies that don't have their own physician.

"It's not over the counter, but it's the closest thing we can have to over the counter," said Robert Valuck, professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He supports the effort to push naloxone.

Dan Scales of Scales Pharmacy said in the first week of July he believed he was the only independent pharmacy in the state acting on the expanded-access provisions. But he thought it was only a matter of time and education.

At least one Coloradan died each day in 2013 from an unintentional drug overdose — most were prescription painkillers, according to the state health department.

For more information on Naloxone go to: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/naloxoneorders