Aspen pharmacies receive first shipments of Narcan, the over-the-counter opioid reversal medication
The first opioid overdose reversal medication known as Narcan was recently approved for over-the-counter purchase, according to its manufacturer, and many pharmacies within Pitkin County received their first shipments this week.
On March 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its decision to approve the first nonprescription naloxone product: Narcan 4 milligram naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray.
Narcan is a nasal-spray version of naloxone, which is used to prevent overdoses by blocking the effects of opioids, most commonly experienced in drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, or oxycodone.
As of Friday, Kroger-based City Market in Aspen had received its first shipment of Narcan, which will be sold through the pharmacy for $44.99 per package of two, single-dose nasal sprays, possibly as soon as Monday.
Jessica Trowbridge, a corporate affairs representative for Kroger, said in a statement provided to The Aspen Times that its “Family of Pharmacies” is supportive of efforts being made to make life-saving medications more accessible to customers.
“Today (Friday), Kroger Health carries naloxone and dispenses it without a prescription in every state where we are legally able to do so, and we support efforts to expand that ability more broadly,” she stated.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, naloxone comes in various forms. While some versions will now be sold over-the-counter, other formulations of naloxone are expected to remain available as prescription products only.
Torrie Walker is a pharmacist with Carl’s Pharmacy in Aspen. She said they had been carrying the prescription-based version of naloxone for the last several years.
But as of Friday, Carl’s had been approved to start distributing the over-the-counter, non-prescription version of Narcan for $80.
Walker said that she hopes once the word is more widely spread of the FDA’s recent approval, more people will take advantage of the accessibility.
“With all the injuries we have around here in Aspen with our active population, people get prescribed pain medication quite often,” she said. “Unfortunately with some people, it can lead to addiction or substance abuse. And with recreational drug use, sometimes people take things they don’t think are harmful, and you never know when you may encounter that. I think we’re seeing it more and more often in the past few years.”
She said that prior to the FDA’s approval, there had been instances when people would come up to her counter after witnessing an overdose, hoping to easily access the medication to help someone in need. She said such instances have encouraged people to want to carry supplies around in the event of an emergency.
“If it’s on people’s minds, I think it maybe kind of scares them a little, or they don’t want to have to ever deal with it,” Walker said. “Sort of like out of sight, out of mind, but you never know when it could be a friend, a family member, a random person. It’s a super helpful thing to have around. I think more people should take advantage of the opportunity that it’s available.”
Pharmacist and owner of Basalt Clinic Pharmacy, Tad Anderson, said they, too, just received their first shipment at the beginning of the week and are selling boxes for $60.
“We’ll try to keep in stock; my guess is there will be some supply issues during the initial launch, but we currently have some,” he said. “So far, we’ve sold one box, but the word isn’t out yet, so I think once word does get out, that will change.”
Addressing the problem
Pitkin County announced via a press release last March that it would be forming an alliance with neighboring counties in an effort to reduce the number of substance use-related deaths and increase community awareness.
Earlier this year, Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Lake and Summit Counties collectively posted a Request for Proposals for Opioid Abatement Services, with Eagle County acting as the fiscal agent.
The Opioid Abatement Services are said to consist of harm reduction programming, anti-stigma and education campaign design, and implementation opioid data dashboard development.
In a statement made in the release, Laryssa Bonilla, Pitkin County Planning Prevention, & Partnerships manager said, “We know opioid use in Pitkin County is a problem, but we don’t have data to show the extent of the problem.”
“This effort will not only use marketing and outreach to address the stigma associated with opioid use, provide education, and direct people to resources, it will also help us gather data,” she stated. “Opioid use is a problem here that needs attention, and this will help us address it.”
Based on information provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, on average, during 2014-2018, Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, and Summit Counties experienced 3.4 opioid deaths per 100,000 population.
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