Maine Pharmacists Are Confused About Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug

Dec 05, 2016 11:40 PM EST

Naloxone, brand name Narcan, reverses the effects of opioid medication, which includes slowed breathing, or loss of consciousness.  In April, a law was passed directing the Board of Pharmacy to approve rules for pharmacists for over-the-counter sale of naloxone. The law gave the board until July 1, 2017 to create the rules to sell Narcan without prescription. 

Pharmacists Are Confused About The Law's Intention

It took the Board of Pharmacy about eight months before discussing the law, and during last week's meeting, members and staff said they are confused about the law's intention and wanted clarifications from lawmakers who sponsored it.  Several questions were raised, including whether the pharmacists could refuse to sell naloxone, whether they could administer naloxone to customers themselves, and whether there is an age limit on who can buy it.

Board President Joe Bruno said: "We don't know legislative intent.   It's a poorly written bill, personally. It looks like it was cut and pasted from some other state. I don't know if the intent of the sponsor was you walk in a pharmacy just like you would a flu shot, the pharmacist goes, 'OK, here's your information, and after I talk to you, here's your naloxone.' I don't know if that was the intent, but that's not what this does. All this reiterates is what a pharmacist can already do."

Naloxone Is A Potentially Life-Saving Drug

Narcan is used for narcotic overdose treatment in an emergency situation.  It is called a potentially life-saving drug which has become a regular tool among Maine's firefighters, emergency medical technicians and even some police officers, who are first to respond to drug overdose calls. 

The National Institutes of Health said in a report: "Naloxone -a nasal spray formulation of the medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose - has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The new technology has an easy-to-use, needle-free design, providing family members, caregivers and first responders with an alternative to injectable naloxone for use during a suspected opioid overdose."

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