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Arizona CVS pharmacies to sell opioid overdose reversal medication without prescription

Posted at 9:45 PM, May 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 11:12:28-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) CVS Pharmacy locations in Arizona will begin selling a medication -- without a prescription -- that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

Previously you would have needed a prescription to purchase Naloxone at CVS. 

The announcement was made this week by CVS officials, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and first responders in Phoenix. The change was made thanks to legislation passed last year.

"The opioid epidemic is an urgent public health crisis facing Arizona and the entire country," Brnovich said in a press release. "We want to ensure that Arizona families who have loved ones struggling with addiction have access to Naloxone because it saves lives."

Robert Marshall, the regional manager for CVS in Arizona, says they want to give more people a chance to get the help they need for recovery. 

Naloxone is used to reverse an opioid overdose and can work instantly. Experts say it's an opioid receptor antagonist. It binds to the receptor and prevents the narcotic from binding to that same receptor.

CVS pharmacists will consult patients on how to identify an overdose, the importance of calling 911, how to administer the drug, etc. 

The injection costs $45, and the Narcan nasal spray is $110. Narcan is a brand of Naloxone.

While it can save lives, experts say Naloxone has both pros and cons. Robert Wolk, the clinical pharmacy manager at Tucson Medical Center, says the most important thing is to make sure you know what you're doing. 

The drugs can last a lot longer than the Narcan does, Wolk said, so the benefit of the medication could wear off and you'll be back in the same spot. It's important that if you are administering Narcan that you keep calm and stay focused, Wolk said, which can be hard when it is someone you love.

Wolk urges people to call 911 during a suspected overdose or emergency.

Naloxone is effective with opioids but not with alcohol or drugs like cocaine. It's common for people to mix drugs, Wolk said, so if you administer the medication on someone who has taken herion and cocaine it won't do anything for the effects of the cocaine. 

Walgreens announced a similar policy last year.

CVS is now Naloxone without a prescription in 41 states, including Arizona.

Paramedics and police officers carry Naloxone. The Tucson Fire Department told KGUN9 last September it had used the medication 890 times so far that year.

According to a report from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, in 2015 379 deaths in Pima County were attributed to an overdose of a single drug or a combination of drugs. Heroin contributed to 93 deaths, more than any other illicit drugs.