At a press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol today, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, flanked by the state’s top medical and drug officials, announced a new program which allows licensed pharmacists across the state to sell the life-saving drug Naloxone to opioid addicts and those who might know someone at risk for opioid overdose without a prescription. The program goes live today.
Each dose of Naloxone costs between $75-$100 dollars.
The protocol was approved by the Legislature by Act 284 of 2017. It was approved this summer by the Arkansas State Medical Board and the Arkansas State Pharmacy Board. According to the protocol, those who are eligible to obtain doses of the drug are any person who “is at increased risk of an opioid overdose, or who is a family member, friend or other person who is in a position to assist an individual with an increased risk of an opioid overdose.”
Dr. John Kirtley, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, was on hand with Hutchinson, and likened the opioid receptors in the brain to golf tees, on which an opioid molecule sits like a golf ball. If too many of these receptors are activated, respiratory depression can be so severe that the person stops breathing, resulting in death. Kirtley said Naloxone, delivered by a one-dose nasal spray, can stop an opioid overdose in three to five minutes by pushing opioid molecules off the “tee” of the receptor and lingering there for up to 30 minutes, giving bystanders and first responders time to rush the overdose sufferer to the hospital. Because opioids stay in the system much longer than Naloxone, the antidote effect is only temporary, and must be followed up by longer-term medical treatment.
Kirtley said the protocol is “a prime example of Arkansans taking care of their own.” Naloxone works on a variety of opioid drugs, including illegal drugs like Fentanyl, but will not harm a person who is not in the grip of an opioid overdose. Kirtley likened it to the Epi-pen carried by those with life-threatening allegies. There will be no registry of people who purchase Naloxone, and no restrictions on sales to people from out of state.
Hutchinson, who said some counties in the state have over 150 opioid pills for every man, woman and child living there, said the new protocol is consistent with the recommendations of President Trump’s National Task Force on opioid abuse, and will save lives. Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane called the announcement “momentous,” and pointed to the proven record of Arkansas law enforcement using Naloxone to save at least 12 people from death by overdose since December 2016.
You can read the protocol here: