LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Doctors say a move by the Natural State could be an antidote to its opioid problem.
The governor, along with top drug and health officials, announced the Naloxone Standing Protocol Wednesday, which allows Arkansans to get the overdose antidote drug, commonly known as Narcan, over the counter at any pharmacy in the state.
“It’s not a bad idea for everyone to have Narcan around because you never know when an accident can happen,” said Dr. Mark Miedema with Ortho Arkansas.
Dr. Miedema has practiced pain medicine for the better part of a decade. He knows opioids are common prescriptions for pain, but doctors prescribing Narcan with them is less common, about ten percent.
“If you’re going to take an opioid and you know that one of the side effects could be respiratory infection, and if you took too much even death, you should have medicine around that reverses that,” Miedema said. “Especially because that’s an emergency and you may not have time to call 911 and wait for an ambulance to come.”
A box of Narcan with two nasal sprays inside could cost anywhere from $10 with insurance to more than $100 without.
Dr. Miedema believes nationwide data shows why it’s worth it.
“When you look at accidental deaths within the U.S. in the last year, opioid deaths have surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths, particularly in the age range between 25 and 55,” he said.
Dr. Miedema said the victims aren’t only patients with a prescription.
“It’s not just as simple as too many pain medications being prescribed because about only half of the opioid overdose deaths are from prescription opioids,” he said.
The other half are from stolen opioids or illicit ones, which Dr. Miedema said are typically not the victims who would seek out help from the new state protocol.
“Someone that’s maybe abusing opioids isn’t going to think, ‘Oh, maybe I should go and get Narcan just in case,'” he said.
That’s why Dr. Miedema hopes the community uses the power the state gave them to intervene.
“Hopefully it will help prevent a preventable death,” he said.
There are also newer opioid pain medications that have Naloxone or other deterrents in them.
Dr. Miedema calls on insurance providers to make them more affordable.