WASHINGTON -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on Thursday took a dramatic step toward addressing the devastating toll the opioid epidemic has had on his state. He signed emergency legislation that will essentially make Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, available without a prescription.
The policy change means that pharmacies can now offer Naloxone over the counter to individuals cleared by a doctor or health official.
In May, neighboring Kentucky enacted a similar measure in which first responders or a family member of an addict could receive the drug without a prescription. Both states have been plagued by the opioid epidemic, with hundreds of residents dying from overdoses. Treatment facilities in Kentucky have had a difficult time meeting demand or even offering adequate, evidence-based care, as reported in a Huffington Post investigation published in January. The CDC recently reported that heroin overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.
For officials in Kentucky and Ohio, there has been a gradual embrace of Naloxone as a life-saving measure. Two years ago, Kasich, a GOP presidential contender, signed a bill authorizing a pilot program for one county's first responders to carry Naloxone. A year later, he signed legislation that would let an addict's loved ones administer the drug without fear of being charged with a crime.
The move to make Naloxone available without a prescription was brought up in an April oversight hearing in Congress. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said the Food and Drug Administration needed to make the life-saving drug as available as any other over-the-counter remedy.
“Right now, it’s hard to get,” Burgess told The Huffington Post. “If it were available at a 24-hour pharmacy, not saying it could save every life at risk, it could save some. The downside of having it available is what?”