Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine demonstrated how to obtain the opioid overdose reversing drug Naloxone at the Weis Market pharmacy in Bellefonte on Friday.
With her insurance card in hand and without a prescription, Levine stepped to the pharmacy counter, asked for and purchased the medication. In a less than five minute transaction, she was holding a nasal spray that could end an opioid overdose.
The medication can be purchased and administered in one of two forms. Narcan, a nasal spray, is the least expensive option. It costs about $130 and is covered by most insurances, including Medicaid. Evzio, which is an auto-injector, is typically not covered by insurance and can cost more than $3,000. The medication cannot be abused, does not provide a high of any type and has virtually no side effects, according to Levine. After administration of the medication, 911 must be called.
“We want the public, patients and families to know that they can now obtain Naloxone,” Levine said. “And if their loved one suffers from the disease of addiction and they’ve overdosed, they can save their life.”
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In 2015, Levine signed two standing orders intended to provide easy access to the medication. The first order allowed first-responders to carry the medication to be administered to individuals overdosing. Since the order was signed, more than 2,000 lives have been saved, Levine said.
The second order permits members of the public to purchase the medication at pharmacies around the commonwealth simply by mentioning the standing order. The medication is available at all Weis pharmacies in the State College area and will soon be available at all 99 Weis pharmacies statewide, according to Rick Seipp, vice president of pharmacy at Weis Inc..
“It’s important to us at Weis Markets that we are supporting the community and we are part of trying to develop solutions,” Seipp said. “The availability of Naloxone is important for us in our pharmacies as well, so that everyone can come to our pharmacies and receive the product.”
Levine said the 2015 Pennsylvania coroner’s report showed more than 3,500 opioid related deaths statewide and 2016 is expected to be worse, but the state has made battling the opioid epidemic a top priority.
“Gov. (Tom) Wolf and the administration is committed and we are tirelessly working on this throughout the state,” Levine said. “The issue is urban, it is suburban and it is rural, which brings us to Centre County.”
In November, Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers reported 16 opioid-related deaths. Levine said making the medication more accessible through the standing order could help to bring the numbers down.
“It’s very important to have this at home if you have a loved one or a friend at risk of overdosing,” Levine said. “You can save their life.”
More information, including how to properly administer the medication, can be found on the Department of Health’s website.