WASHINGTON --New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that naloxone, the drug that can counter the effects of a heroin overdose, will now be sold without a prescription in pharmacies across the city. The move is part of a broader effort across the country to increase access to the medication, especially in areas hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic.
Ohio and Kentucky have already allowed the medication to be sold over the counter, joining other states. In September, the CVS pharmacy chain announced that it would allow naloxone to be sold over the counter in 12 states, in addition to Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where it was already allowing nonprescription purchases.
According to Newsday, naloxone will be sold for $50 at a majority of Rite Aid pharmacies, with CVS eventually joining in. “The deaths are what we all struggle to avoid … but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” de Blasio said during his announcement at a YMCA. “For every death, there are literally hundreds who struggle with addiction.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently fast-tracked and approved a nasal-spray version of the medication. But so far, approval for naloxone to be sold over the counter has been piecemeal, state by state and city by city, despite the drug's benefits. Naloxone's cost has also soared to the point where purchasing it at a pharmacy has become out of reach for some. Volunteer groups in places like North Carolina and Northern Kentucky are becoming essential safety nets by handing out free naloxone kits.
"The only thing naloxone does is reverse an opiate overdose," Laura Thomas, California deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Huffington Post earlier this year. "It's not a drug that people can get high on, it's not a drug that has any other repercussions or side effects, and increasingly people understand that we need to get naloxone into the hands of anyone who's likely to be at the scene of an overdose."
Newsday noted that city officials also promised to certify 1,000 medical personnel to prescribe buprenorphine -- a medication that has been shown to be one of the best ways for an opioid addict to begin the long road to recovery. Earlier this year, HuffPost highlighted the problems with accessing buprenorphine.