Heroin-overdose antidote now available at local pharmacies
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Out of seven pharmacies in Ohio that have adapted to state law allowing pharmacies to dispense an opioid-overdose antidote without requiring a prescription, six are in the Mahoning Valley.
Hometown Pharmacy locations in Struthers, Youngstown, Poland, Brookfield and Columbiana and Brine Pharmacy in Girard now offer naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Hart Pharmacy Inc. in Cincinnati also dispenses the medication, according to state pharmacy board records.
The goal, pharmacy officials say, is to expand access to a tool in the statewide battle against the opioid-addiction epidemic.
The state law change went into effect last month.
“We thought there was a need ... so we’re ready to take care of it,” said Ron McDermott, senior vice president of pharmacy operations for Hometown Pharmacy Solutions.
“They want to break down as many barriers [to access] as possible,” said AJ Caraballo, pharmacy manager for the Hometown Pharmacy location on South Meridian Road in Youngstown.
“Mahoning and Trumbull counties have a serious drug problem. This fills a definite need in the community,” he said.
He highlighted a unique aspect of the pharmacy protocol.
“Usually it’s you asking for yourself, but what makes this unique is that a family member ... can come in and get a Narcan kit if they feel their loved one is at risk of overdosing,” he said, using a brand name for naloxone.
Individuals can stop by a pharmacy and request a kit – which comes equipped with two doses of the drug, two syringes and instructions – under their name, even if the intended use is for someone else. The drug then will be dispensed in the name of the person who requested it.
The cost of the kit can be billed to the individual’s insurance company, Caraballo said, adding that most insurance companies cover it. He estimated that the cost without insurance coverage would be about $60.
Caraballo sees the new law as a positive thing.
“Absolutely it’s a good thing. Drug addiction is a disease. ... But there’s still a stigma surrounding it,” he said. “We just want to make sure we have a judgment-free place ... for if, God forbid, the need arises. In my view it’s no different than an EpiPen injection. ... It’s a life-saving medication that people need to have access to.”
He believes most requests for naloxone will be from family members of addicts. It’s an important tool to help save a loved one’s life, he says.
“Time is brain function,” he said, saying that putting naloxone in the hands of those most likely to find someone after an overdose will help the chance of survival.
Naloxone restores the ability to breathe after an overdose by blocking opioids from the receptors in the central nervous system to which they attach.
The drug, if administered to someone who is unresponsive for a reason other than an overdose, is not harmful. To someone who is experiencing an overdose, naloxone will cause symptoms of withdrawal.
“But they’ll be breathing,” Caraballo said.