Smith's Starts Selling Opioid Antidote Over-the-Counter - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Smith's Starts Selling Opioid Antidote Over-the-Counter

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Smith's Food & Drug Pharmacy has joined a list of companies that sell naloxone without a prescription.  The drug is used on people who have overdosed on opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone and heroin.

"If you've taken too much opiate, it will go in and reverse the respiratory effects of that," Cindy Green, REMSA Education Manager said.

Overdose victims often stop breathing but a dose of naloxone can change that, quickly.

"When we're giving an I.V., about 30 seconds is when you'll see somebody start breathing again, and they'll wake up," Green said. "Sometimes, it's like a light switch."

Naloxone comes in three forms.  Smith's sells it as a nasal spray, but it can also be administered through an I.V. or injected into the muscle. Dan Heller is a pharmacist for Smith's, and says offering the drug without a prescription will save lives.

"It makes it so simple to save a life, more so than giving CPR or things that are just exhausting and may not work, where this works immediately," Heller said.

More than 33,000 people died of an opioid overdose in 2015, nationwide.  Nearly 15,000 of them were prescription drugs.  During that same year, more than 88 million pills of hydrocodone and 61 million pills of oxycodone were prescribed in Nevada.  Both rank second in the country.

"I can't tell you how many times I've had to use it," Green said. "Probably thousands of times that I've had to use naloxone and it worked."

Lawmakers are trying to find ways to curb opioid abuse and overdoses.  That is why the state legislature passed SB459, two years ago.  The law legalized the over-the-counter sale of naloxone.  Other states already have similar regulations in place.

"Some nay-sayers might say this might just encourage use of illicit drugs or things like that, and that was quite the contrary," Heller said. "There was an actual decline in geographies that actually put naloxone programs to use."

Heller says the legislation is common sense. Drug overdoses kill more Americans than car accidents.

"How could you not save a life? How could you not want to give someone a second chance at living and maybe they can kick their habit," Heller said.

Green says administering naloxone to an overdose victim saves precious time but says it is still critical to call 911 during an incident.  The drug can wear off within 20-30 minutes.

"It will allow us to get there and hopefully then, if anything else has to be done for this person, it is done," Green said.

Experts say naloxone does not have any side effects, other than possible withdrawals from the opioid, and that is why they say it is safe to buy without a prescription.  Several pharmacies offer Narcan or similar brands of naloxone throughout northern Nevada.

"Now we have to get the education out to the public and we have to have it available to get, and so that they know where to get it and how much it's going to cost," Green said.

Heller says most insurance policies will cover the cost of the drug, which ranges from $25 to $150. Naloxone can be purchased at other pharmacies like Walgreen's and CVS, though some require prescriptions.

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