U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams recently issued a national advisory urging Americans to carry the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Since 1999, Colorado has seen a 400 percent increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths.
KUNC’s Stephanie Daniel spoke with Robert Valuck, director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and a professor of pharmacy at the University of Colorado at Denver, about the recommendation.
What do you think about the advisory?
Robert Valuck: I think it’s very timely and I was very excited to see it. I think that it’s an important announcement. … I think is a necessary thing, so I very much applaud it and support it.
How does naloxone work?
Valuck: It’s a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by going into the body either by injection or through a nasal spray form. … Naloxone is a drug that kicks off any opioid receptors in your body and it sits on those receptors for anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes … and reverses the effect of having all of that opioid medication. Whether it’s legal or illegal doesn’t matter, any opioid. And (it) gives somebody time and revives them so they can then get medical attention and not have an overdose and die.
Where can I get naloxone?
Valuck: It’s a prescription drug. But no one in Colorado — and in most states — you don’t have to have a prescription in your possession by a doctor. You can just go to a pharmacy. And we have passed a law in Colorado called a standing orders law that allows pharmacies to obtain a blanket prescription – what’s called a “standing order” – from the state health department. … It’s as though people have a prescription on file in the pharmacy for anyone who’s a citizen in Colorado.
What about people who don’t have insurance?
Valuck: Medicaid covers naloxone without prior authorization. … For people that are high risk, we are, through different grants from the federal government, distributing naloxone to a lot of different organizations … syringe access providers, harm reduction organizations, all of the methadone clinics in the state. … Five different county jail systems are giving naloxone to inmates upon release to have that in their possession and are training them on how to use it. So that when they leave they potentially won’t be without naloxone and potentially overdose and die.
Are there any legal ramifications for someone who uses naloxone?
Valuck: There’s actually a Good Samaritan law in place. Before we passed the standing orders law, we passed the Good Samaritan law. Meaning that if you report something, call 911 … the reporting is protected, someone administering naloxone is protected. So, you can go ahead and call and not fear any consequences.