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Governor Cuomo Announces Narcan Now Available at Independent Pharmacies

By FOX 40 Staff.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday announced independent pharmacies across New York will now be able to provide naloxone to their customers without a prescription. Naloxone – also known as Narcan® -- is a medication that reverses opioid overdose. Improved accessibility to the medication is one of the priorities at the center of the Governor’s fight to end opioid abuse in New York State.

Naloxone poses no danger to individuals who come into contact with it, and has no potential for being abused. It works only if a person has opioids in his or her system; the medication has no effect if opioids are absent.

When administered either through injection or by nasal spray, naloxone temporarily blocks the effects of opioids allowing a stricken individual to regain consciousness. The potentially life-threatening opioids include medicines prescribed to address pain as well as illicit drugs such as heroin.

"Heroin addiction has taken the lives of far too many New Yorkers, but today we are taking an important step forward in battling this epidemic,” Governor Cuomo said. "By making this lifesaving medication available in drugstores without a prescription, we are continuing to prevent needless tragedies from occurring and ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to this critical medication."

Although traditionally administered by emergency medical services or hospital personnel, naloxone can be administered by laypeople with minimal training.

The Department of Health provides funding to The Harm Reduction Coalition, the Department’s Center for Excellence in serving the needs of substance users. The Harm Reduction Coalition will issue standing medical orders to the more than 750 independent pharmacies outside the five boroughs of New York City, as well as chain pharmacies without a designated prescriber, allowing their pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. As a DOH-registered overdose prevention program, the HRC is able to issue these standing orders. Many smaller counties in the state have no chain pharmacies and rely exclusively on independent pharmacies.

In January, the Health Department approved more than 480 CVS pharmacies throughout the State as registered opioid overdose programs, enabling their pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. The Department took a similar action for Walgreens for more than 460 Walgreens and Duane Read pharmacies statewide.

"Making naloxone available in both chain and independent pharmacies ensures that this life-saving medication is widely accessible throughout New York’s communities,” said State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker. "Naloxone works by countering the opioid’s depressive effects on respiration, so an overdose victim can breathe normally.”

Pharmacists are now able to provide this training in addition to dispensing the naloxone to their customers. All individuals who are given naloxone must still go to the hospital with EMS personnel. Naloxone is effective in blocking the effects of an opioid for 30 to 90 minutes. When the naloxone wears off, someone may slip back into a life-threatening overdose.

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the State's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369). Treatment providers can also be located by using the NYS OASAS Bed Availability Dashboard or by visiting the NYS OASAS Find Help page. Visit www.combatheroin.ny.gov for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help.

Independent pharmacies wanting to dispense naloxone under HRC’s standing order should send an email to naloxone@harmreduction.org.