To combat the opioid epidemic, Walgreens is stocking all of its pharmacies, more than 8,000 stores, with Narcan, an intranasal medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to reverse the effects of opioid overdose in minutes.
“By stocking Narcan in all our pharmacies, we are making it easier for families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case it is needed,” Rick Gates, Walgreens group vice president of pharmacy, said in a press release.
Narcan, brand name of naloxone, can revive someone who has stopped breathing after overdosing on opioids such as heroin or OxyContin. The antidote was developed to allow first responders and loved ones of people battling opioid addiction to revive someone who has overdosed.
Walgreens announced plans in 2016 to offer naloxone to customers without a prescription in states where laws allow it, which covers about 5,800 stores. In 45 states, the company offers the medication without prescription.
AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest pharmaceutical distributors in the United States, has provided Walgreens pharmacists with free Narcan demonstration devices so they can teach people to properly administer the antidote.
The pharmacy chain also plans to educate customers about Narcan when they purchase opioids that are stronger than 50 morphine milligram equivalents, which have a higher risk of causing overdose. This strategy adheres to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Narcan can be purchased throughout the United States. The antidote is available without a prescription in every state except Michigan and Nebraska. In those states, customers must present a written prescription from a physician upon purchase.
In addition to Walgreens, several chain stores offer naloxone for purchase, including Walmart, Target and Kroger. The medication is available without a prescription at CVS pharmacies in 41 states and at Rite Aid pharmacies in 25 states.
“This is an incredibly safe and effective medication,” Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent, told “Good Morning America.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, naloxone reversed more than 26,000 overdoses between 1996 and 2014. However, anyone who receives Narcan should still seek immediate medical treatment.
On Oct. 28, the 14th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day takes place throughout the United States. This campaign is designed to provide a safe, convenient and responsible outlet for people to anonymously dispose of old or unused prescription medications.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day strives to reduce the misuse of prescription drugs, which opioid abusers often obtain from the home medicine cabinets of loved ones. The program also aims to educate the public about the consequences of prescription drug abuse.
Unused or expired prescription medications are associated with misuse, accidental poisoning and overdose. Properly disposing of these drugs can help curtail misuse or abuse, which could alleviate the U.S. opioid crisis.
National Drug Take Back Day has seen mass participation across the country. The 13th event in April 2017 provided 5,498 collection sites and involved participation from 4,223 law enforcement agencies. By the end of the day, about 450 tons of prescription medications were collected.
Walgreens has helped people get rid of unwanted prescription drugs. The company has collected more than 155 tons of prescription drugs through disposal kiosks located in 600 pharmacies across the country. These stores allow people to dispose of unused medications at no charge.