Pubdate: Fri, 26 Feb 2016
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Palm Beach Post
Page: A10


In 35 states and Washington, D.C., you soon will be able to go into a 
Walgreens and get naloxone, the heroin overdose antidote, without a 

But not in Florida, where heroin is hitting with deadly impact.

CVS is another major pharmacy that is increasing its supplies of 
naloxone, often sold as the prescription drug Narcan. CVS, too, will 
be selling it widely in 35 states. In 14 of those states, including 
New York, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the chain will be 
providing it to patients without an individual prescription. Not 
Florida. Heroin deaths have soared in this state: from 48 in 2010 to 
447 in 2014. And our area is arguably the epidemic's epicenter. A 
startling seven people have died of suspected heroin overdoses this 
month in West Palm Beach, bringing the total to 11 deaths since 
December, police reported Wednesday. At this time last year, there were none.

Across Palm Beach County, heroin-related deaths have grown by more 
than 50 percent in the past year, according to the county's medical examiner.

Naloxone is no cure for heroin addiction, but it can halt death by 
heroin. Administered by injection or simply by nasal spray, it stops 
the effects of an overdose long enough to get a person to an 
emergency room - and maybe later to treatment. In the Chicago suburbs 
alone, it has been credited with saving more than 170 lives since late 2014.

"We are supportive of making it as available as possible," Mark 
Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse 
Association, told The Post Editorial Board on Wednesday. "We need to 
do everything we can to help someone who is going into an overdose."

Last year the Florida Legislature took a step forward by, almost 
unanimously, passing a law that advanced the antidote's use. It 
allowed doctors to prescribe naloxone to a patient or family members, 
friends or others in repeated contact with someone at risk of opioid 
overdose - and to use it in an emergency. It let law enforcement 
officers and emergency medical technicians store and administer it, 
without legal peril.

This year the Senate is entertaining a measure that would allow 
doctors to write open-ended, standing orders, making it easier for a 
patient or a caregiver to get naloxone at a pharmacy without first 
getting a personalized prescription.

That's well and good, but why not just go all the way and make it an 
over-the-counter drug, as other states are doing? The medication is 
safe, said addiction specialist Dr. Valerie Westhead, of Aspire 
Health Partners in Orlando: You can't get high from it, and it will 
have no ill effects if you take it by mistake.

State action will be needed to make it over-the-counter, Westhead 
told the Editorial Board on Thursday. And the state should act. Fears 
of making an overdose antidote "too easy" for addicts to obtain are 
petty compared with the very pressing reality that people are dying.

"None of us is trying to encourage drug use," Fontaine said, "but if 
your son or daughter overdoses, you sure want to make sure you can 
save their life."

When CVS announced this month that it was making naloxone available 
without prescription across Ohio, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, 
said: "It shouldn't be easier for Ohioans to get opioids than it is 
to get lifesaving medication necessary to stop overdoses."

That's no less true for Florida.
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