Over­dose-re­ver­sal drug now stocked in Bal­ti­more stores.

Bal­ti­more waives train­ing for rem­edy

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Cit­ing the deadly opi­oid cri­sis, Bal­ti­more of­fi­cials made it eas­ier on Thurs­day to ac­quire an over­dose-re­vers­ing drug over the counter, say­ing the an­ti­dote should be as preva­lent as pos­si­ble to pre­vent more deaths.

City Health Com­mis­sioner Leana Wen waived train­ing re­quire­ments for ac­quir­ing and us­ing nalox­one, a fast-act­ing med­i­ca­tion that’s be­come a vi­tal and ubiq­ui­tous tool in fight­ing the na­tion’s heroin and pre­scrip­tion painkiller cri­sis.

Dr. Wen said the train­ing only took a few min­utes — nalox­one can be ad­min­is­tered as a nasal spray or in­jected into the mus­cle, like an EpiPen. But the as­so­ci­ated pa­per­work was cum­ber­some, so she im­ple­mented a re­cent state law al­low­ing her to scrap the train­ing al­to­gether.

“Any res­i­dent can go into any of our phar­ma­cies in Bal­ti­more City and im­me­di­ately get the med­i­ca­tion for sav­ing some­one’s life,” she said.

City res­i­dents on Med­i­caid can ac­quire two doses of nalox­one for $1 — it’s free if they don’t have the money — while those on pri­vate in­sur­ance typ­i­cally face co-pays of $10 to $40.

Bal­ti­more es­ti­mates that 20,000 res­i­dents use heroin and thou­sands more abuse pre­scrip­tion opi­oids. There were 481 fa­tal over­doses in the city dur­ing the first nine months of 2016, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary data, and deaths re­lated to fen­tanyl have risen twen­ty­fold in re­cent years, the health depart­ment said.

The or­der brings Bal­ti­more in line with a num­ber of states that have granted over-the-counter ac­cess to the drug with­out train­ing re­quire­ments, though who may ac­quire it varies from state to state. It also co­in­cides with ef­forts at every level of gov­ern­ment to re­spond to a dev­as­tat­ing opi­oid epi­demic that is killing more Amer­i­cans than car crashes do in some places.

Ear­lier this week, the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices an­nounced $70 mil­lion in state grants to ex­pand med­i­ca­tion-as­sisted treat­ment for opi­oid ad­dic­tion and ex­pand the use of over­dose-re­vers­ing drugs.

Ohio, mean­while, be­came the lat­est ju­ris­dic­tion to take a hard line on opi­oid man­u­fac­tur­ers, fil­ing a law­suit that said their mar­ket­ing prac­tices dis­re­garded the risks of ad­dic­tion and fu­eled the state’s epi­demic as pa­tients, once hooked, turned to cheaper al­ter­na­tives such as heroin and syn­thetic opi­oids.

The de­fen­dant com­pa­nies ei­ther de­clined to com­ment or said the lit­i­ga­tion was mis­guided, say­ing they’ve com­plied with fed­eral rules and have de­vel­oped forms of their drugs that are less sus­cep­ti­ble to abuse but still man­age pain.

The state of Mis­sis­sippi, city of Chicago and coun­ties in New York, Cal­i­for­nia and West Vir­ginia have filed sim­i­lar law­suits against com­pa­nies along the pre­scrip­tion opi­oid sup­ply chain.

Congress last year tried to get its arms around the opi­oid cri­sis by ap­prov­ing $500 mil­lion each for fis­cal years 2017 and 2018 to de­liver much-needed treat­ment and ex­pand the use of drugs such as nalox­one, which is also known by the brand name Nar­can.

Some crit­ics say nalox­one is a back­stop that em­bold­ens ad­dicts to take risks and con­tinue us­ing.

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