GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two Michigan legislators introduced identical bills in the Michigan House and Senate to allow state pharmacies to offer Naloxone, an opiate overdose-reversing drug, without a prescription.
Nationwide there is a growing epidemic involving prescription pill and heroin overdoses. In West Michigan things are no different.
In the last two weeks, Calhoun County has seen at least 26 overdoses, four people have died.
Kent county has also seen a spike in overdoses since 2011.
“It’s very cheap, very inexpensive: I’m told a dose of heroin can be around $10,” said Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma.
Stelma said in 2014 alone, Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team officers arrested 51 heroin dealers and seized 1,115.29 grams of heroin. In response to deadly overdoses, Kent County medical first responders carry Narcan, which, like Naloxone, is a life-saving drug, reversing the effects of an overdose.
“It really doesn’t solve the problem, and it’s not intended to solve the problem, but it does bring attention to it, and it’s good for saving lives,” said Stelma.
In an effort to cut the drastic death toll, major chain pharmacies are beginning to offer life-saving medication without a prescription. In an unprecedented national move, Walgreens announced its pharmacies will offer Naloxone without prescription after a pharmacist consult, and released this statement to FOX 17:
“The fact remains that prescription drug abuse continues to be a public health and safety risk in our country. Studies show in 2014 an estimated 6.5 million Americans abused a prescription drug, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths, which include prescription and illicit drugs, during the same year. Many experts believe that drug diversion represents a significant contributor to the abuse problem.
As a pharmacy, we determined we could and should play a stronger role in reducing the misuse of medications and help reduce the rise in overdose deaths through the programs we announced this week.”
By the end of the year, 39 states will have this—Michigan is not on the list.
State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker and State Rep. Anthony Forlini are working to change that and introduced two identical bills, SB 778 and HB 5326, last week. Each would enable Michigan pharmacies to offer Naloxone without prescription.
“It’s a safe effective drug that will save lives,” said Senator Schuitmaker, (R) Lawton. “It would operate just like we dispense pseudoephedrine: there’s a log, you talk to the pharmacist, and you get your pseudoephedrine, so it would be handled in the same fashion.”
Ann Kreiser said this legislation would be a good start. Nearly three years ago she and her family lost their son Jordon Bauer to a heroin overdose. Friday, Kreiser released to FOX 17 this statement in response to heightening the availability of Naloxone:
“To this issue I feel that only good can come from this legislation. The option to have access to Naloxone a heroin addict might be able to save another addicts life, a family member may be able to save a brother, sister or child’s life.
When “friends” part y together and heroin is involved it is likely that they are all using. I know with respect to our son Jordon this was the case and from talking with him I know that there were incidents when they had to drag a “friend” into a shower and revive him with cold water, slapping and screaming. Then there is the panicked ditching of an overdosed friend at the ER.
Naloxone will continue to save lives. There are plenty of stories out there that prove this. One might argue that having ready access to this will increase the use of opioids. However, if an addict wants to be saved in the event of an overdose or a “friend” is concerned about another friends drug use, then I believe one or the other will procure the Naloxone.
Registration might cause the user to hesitate because of the law and the illegality of purchasing drugs from a dealer. Who knows what percentage of users, their friends and or family will go to the pharmacy and buy Naloxone? But if only one person does and one life is saved then our Legislators have done their job well.
I also hope that this will help addicts ask for help with their addiction. This is a very public acknowledgement that one has a problem and if we can reinforce the visit to the pharmacist with programs available to help addicts then maybe there is a light at the end of a very long very desperate tunnel for these individuals and their families. Perhaps the next step is to have our Legislatures discuss the need for funding and increasing the availability of clinics and programs to facilitate the recovery of addicts.
Finally, I see that this will help law enforcement follow trends in our cities and neighborhoods. Dealers are clever, they have plenty of tricks up their sleeves and they have every reason to not want to be caught. Maybe this will help.”
After Walgreens’ announcement, several other major chains including Kroger and CVS plan to make Naloxone available without a prescription in select stores nationwide.