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Pharmacy raises naloxone awareness

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A local pharmacy is reaching out to pharmacy technology students, nursing students, teachers and those who work with at-risk youth to raise awareness about naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

Charles Cummings

Charles Cummings, a pharmacist at Duran’s Pharmacy on Central west of Downtown, gives presentations on how naloxone can be used and how the drug can be obtained.

“It’s something that Duran’s feels strongly about – saving lives by letting people know what it’s for and how to use it,” Cummings said.

Cummings spoke recently to pharmacy technicians and nursing students at Carrington College. Other groups he has talked to include teachers and faculty at Gordon Bernell Charter school which serves inmates at facilities in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, staff at New Day Youth & Family Services, a shelter for homeless and at-risk youth and to members of the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention organization.

Cummings said he talks about the magnitude of the drug overdose problem, explains how naloxone can be used and how individuals can obtain it.

According to provisional figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses were responsible for roughly 64,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, about four times as many as in 1999. New Mexico had 501 overdose deaths in 2015, according to the most recent figures available.

Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, reverses the effect of an opioid drug by blocking the receptors in the brain. Legislation passed in 2016 allowed the state Health Department to issue a statewide standing order allowing all registered pharmacists in New Mexico to dispense naloxone to any person at risk for experiencing or potentially witnessing an opioid overdose. It comes in nasal spray or injectable form.

Zelphoe Maloney, pharmacy technology program director at Carrington College said people of any age can be at risk anywhere there are supplies of opioid drugs – a child taking pills out of a medicine cabinet or an elderly person who forgets they’ve already taken their prescribed medication.

Naloxone works with the drugs most commonly involved in prescription opioid overdoses such as Methadone, Oxycodone (OxyContin) and Hydrocodone (Vicodin). It is also used when people have overdosed on the illicit drugs heroin and the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The latter is responsible for a growing number of overdose fatalities.

At Duran’s, Cummings said, any time a person presents a prescription for an opioid pain reliever, a pharmacy technician will ask them if they are familiar with naloxone and let them know they can also receive it. Patients receive information on naloxone and how to use it. For patients with health insurance coverage, the co-pay is usually $30 to $45. Without insurance, the price is about $145.

Cummings said naloxone can also be used on pets. It will not harm a person or animal if they are not experiencing an overdose reaction. However, for those who have overdosed on opioids, Cummings cautioned that naloxone is a temporary fix.

“It buys you time to call 911 to get an EMT there to take the person to the hospital,” he said, “They can go back into an overdose situation if they don’t receive medical care in time.”

He said naloxone can be administered via an intravenous drip in a hospital or by an emergency medical technician.