PHOTO: Naloxone is a medication that can prevent death when administered during an opioid overdose. Photo Courtesy of University of Washington
By Michael V. Cusenza
Naloxone’s street sobriquets denote the medication’s undeniable power as an opioid antagonist designed to reverse an overdose of heroin or some types of prescription painkillers.
This efficacy, coupled with the City’s struggle to gain ground on its opioid epidemic, has led to unique partnerships with two of the top pharmacies in the five boroughs.
Duane Reade and Walgreen Co. this week began dispensing naloxone—or narcan—without a prescription in the 300 Duane Reade and Walgreens stores citywide, and approximately 450 pharmacies statewide.
City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, M.D., applauded the effort.
“Because of its enormous capacity throughout New York City, we are now able to reach hundreds of more communities and thousands of more families plus loved ones who may need access to this lifesaving medication,” she noted.
The administration announced the availability of naloxone at most Rite Aid and CVS stores, as well as other participating pharmacies, without a prescription under a standing order issued by Bassett in December 2015.
With this new commitment from Duane Reade, Walgreen Co., New Yorkers can walk into hundreds of participating pharmacies to purchase naloxone and potentially save a life, according to the administration. For anyone who is unable to afford the insurance co-pay or the cost of naloxone, it may be accessed free of charge at community-based opioid overdose prevention programs.
“Opioid overdose is preventable – yet it continues to claim hundreds of lives in our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “By making naloxone even more widely available we are literally saving lives and helping New Yorkers onto the path to recovery.”
De Blasio and his family have first-hand experience with substance abuse issues. In December 2013, Chiara de Blasio, the mayor’s daughter, revealed that she was on the road to recovery following years of dependence on drugs and alcohol.
“By making naloxone widely and easily available, recovery from a narcotic overdose is now possible,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “We want those who are fighting the disease of addiction to have every medicine at their disposal so they can get well. Loved ones of those suffering from addiction should never again have to worry about not being able to find a medication that could stop their world from falling apart.”
New Yorkers can visit nyc.gov/health and search for “Prevent Overdose” or call 311 to find a participating pharmacy and more information about overdose prevention. A site locator is also available at nyc.gov/health/sitelocator.