It will now be easier for New Jersey pharmacies to offer naloxone, the life-saving opioid overdose antidote, to people without prescriptions.
Pharmacies can now apply for a standing order to dispense naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, under the Pharmacy Practice Act, which allows pharmacies without medical directors to get a standing order from the state Department of Health for the antidote medications.
“Narcan is critical to our efforts to save lives and now we are making it easier for more pharmacists to help,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement.
Christie made the announcement Monday following President Donald Trump’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a national public health emergency last week.
The original New Jersey law did not allow the health department to issue standing orders of this kind, and only pharmacists with medical directors were able to dispense Narcan.
Police, EMTs and paramedics have administered Narcan more than 32,000 times since April 2014, according to state data, including 9,500 overdose reversals this year.
The state Department of Health is now accepting standing order requests from licensed pharmacists in good standing with the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.
With a standing order, pharmacists can give the antidote to someone at risk of an overdose, to someone who may need it for a loved one, or a person who may use it in emergency overdose situations, regardless of whether they have a prescription.
Pharmacists will be required to also give out information about recognizing an overdose, prevention, dosage, resuscitation and after-care.
Narcan and other forms of naloxone are typically given to someone overdosing from opioids with a spray in the nose. Some people may need more than one dose, as they could be overdosing on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.
“We have to look at every overdose reversal as an opportunity to get people into treatment,” health department Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said in a statement. “The administration of Narcan may return someone from near death, but we know sustained recovery requires more than just an antidote.”
Pharmacy standing order requests to the health department should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.