In the United States, there is a law to encourage pharmacists to give naloxone, an opioid antidote, to anybody who asks for it to combat the growing number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses.
Researchers from Philadelphia have found that only one-third of pharmacies in that city are carrying naloxone even after knowing that it could be a lifesaving opioid overdose antidote.
The researchers said, “Although Pennsylvania’s standing order law for naloxone (Narcan) allows pharmacists to dispense the drug without a doctor’s prescription, many pharmacies refused to give the nasal spray without a doctors’ OK.”
The law has been made to encourage pharmacists to give naloxone to anyone who asked for it, with the intention to curb the growing number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses.
Study co-author Dima Qato said, “Not implementing these laws puts unnecessary barriers in the way of those who need this medicine most.”
Qato added, “Efforts to strengthen the implementation of naloxone access laws, including statewide standing orders, which are considered the least restrictive, are warranted. Particularly for pharmacies located in communities with the highest rates of death due to opioid overdose.”
The researchers surveyed Philadelphia pharmacies by phone in 2017. Of more than 400 pharmacies surveyed, only 34 percent had naloxone in stock. They found that chain pharmacies stocked it than independent ones.
The report was published online in JAMA Network Open.
The opioid antidote was also more likely to be found in white neighborhoods than in minatory neighborhoods. The researchers noted that naloxone was not likely to be found in regions where the drug overdose deaths were high.
Of those drugstores that did stock naloxone, 40 percent asked for a doctor’s prescription, while many refused to give the drug to those who were under 18.
Qato said, “Policies need to be enforced and pharmacies need to be aware of and held accountable for implementing them.”
Jenny Guadamuz from the University of Illinois said, “A new law now requires pharmacies to stock naloxone and to post a sign notifying shoppers that it is stocked.” Guadamuz added, “Pharmacies can be fined $250 (R3 692) for each day they are not in compliance of the law. Now, the question is, will the city enforce the law?”