In an effort to prevent hundreds of people each day from succumbing to the grips of opioid addiction, Walgreens will soon stock an emergency overdose reversal drug at thousands of locations all across the United States.
The life-saving treatment, commercially known as Narcan, will be available without a prescription, according to ABC News.
The pharmacy chain, which is the second largest in the nation, recently announced it will carry Narcan (naxolone) at more than 8,000 stores, putting this FDA-approved nasal spay in the hands of consumers the same way it does with common household drugs, like aspirin and antacids.
The overall objective of this new distribution initiative, according to company officials, is to provide families of opioid addicts with easy access to a life-saving solution in the event of an overdose.
“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,” said Walgreen’s vice president Rick Gates. “As a pharmacy, we are committed to making Narcan more accessible in the communities we serve.”
Over the past few years, Walgreens has been working to expand the distribution of Narcan in many of its location. Initially, the pharmacy only carried the spray in around 30 states. The latest push, however, will ensure that Narcan is in over two thousand additional stores all over the country.
But it’s going to be awhile before the overdose reversal drug is affordable. Right now, Narcan comes with a price tag of around $125.
Walgreen’s stepped out with its new plan right before President Trump was expected to officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency.” The White House eventually revealed a limited plan, which only touches on part of the problem without forcing the government to spend any money.
“President Trump’s declaration today amounts to a drop in the bucket compared to what the White House and Congress should be delivering to address this crisis,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said in a statement. “We need a well thought out plan from the Trump administration that resolves the many obstacles people face trying to access medication-assisted treatment and naloxone to save lives.”
Some of the latest’s statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows that 64,000 people lost their lives last year as a result of an opioid overdose—most of which died from prescription painkillers, like hydrocodone and oxycodone.
A recent analysis from the Police Executive Research Forum showed that overdose deaths in 2016 alone surpassed the number of soldiers killed in the 19-year Vietnam War.
Although having additional access to Narcan will hopefully keeps thousands of opioid addicts all over the country alive, the federal government still needs to come together on a solid plan—or else the problem will only get worse.
“We need new funding from Congress to fix our broken treatment infrastructure and boost public health capabilities to end this crisis,” Smith said. “We need to implement proven strategies that have not been tried yet in the U.S., like supervised injection facilities to prevent overdose deaths and reduce opioid-related harm. We need to end drug criminalization and stop incarcerating people who are struggling.”