At long last, the Texas legislature approved naloxone distribution in Texas to help the many people who are battling heroin addiction and facing the risk of death. The Lone Star State is one of the most recent, and among the last, of the states to approve naloxone distribution. In Texas it was passed on September 15, 2015, and the people who will benefit from it can thank Republican congressman Michael Burgess for working hard to get it passed.
He tirelessly promoted the idea that naloxone must be put into the hands of first responders and the family members of people afflicted with heroin addiction. It’s a medication that’s needed with little or no notice, he says, and if you have to call for it at the time it’s needed, when an individual addicted to heroin overdoses, the person may very well die before the drug is available.
Once the Stop Overdose Stat Act, or the SOS Act—H.R. 6311—was passed, it was just a matter of time until all of the states, one-by-one, agreed to make naloxone immediately available for those who needed it. Only Missouri and the District of Columbia have yet to pass legislation.
The bill approving naloxone distribution in Texas limits those who can provide naloxone to emergency services personnel. However, that category is broadened to include not only firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and emergency room providers, but also individuals who are either employees or volunteers of an organization that might provide services for the benefit of the general public during emergency situations.
Prescribers are authorized to distribute naloxone in Texas through either the standard written prescription process or through a standing order. Through a standing order, the naloxone can be immediately available or can be dispensed by the doctor’s staff per the wording of the standing order. For example, the medical director of a methadone treatment program can write a standing order for use of naloxone so that it can be distributed as needed. Naloxone distribution in Texas prohibits the organization from profiting for the storage of the medication because of the issued standing order.
Even more importantly, the prescriber who acts in good faith, whether or not the naloxone is distributed, is protected from criminal or civil liability for their decision. The pharmacists who dispense naloxone upon receipt of written prescription are likewise protected.
The law authorizing naloxone distribution in Texas also states that any person can possesses naloxone. That means if someone is stopped and searched and they are found to have naloxone, they cannot be prosecuted.
Points Regarding Naloxone Distribution in Texas
The particulars of the Texas law regarding naloxone include:
- Civil penalties are removed for prescribers.
- Prescriptions can be written by a third party.
- Non-medical persons who administer naloxone cannot be held liable and cannot be accused of the unauthorized practice of medicine.
- Prescribers who administer naloxone cannot be held liable.
Burgess, who earned a medical degree before he went to Congress, believes that naloxone should be available not just by prescription but over the counter. Naloxone distribution in Texas cannot be provided without a prescription, either the standing order or the regular prescription, at this writing. Burgess told the Huffington Post that naloxone distribution in Texas would save countless lives, and he asks what harm it would cause to make it freely available.
CVS Takes a Stand Against Heroin Addiction Overdose
In fact, the national chain of CVS Pharmacies now makes naloxone available in its pharmacies without a prescription in fourteen states. They include Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, California, and South Carolina. CVS is also looking for ways to take advantage of legislation so that naloxone can be distributed in even more states.
A few small mom-and-pop pharmacies across the country are issuing naloxone the same way, but CVS has the power to bring about real and lasting change that could save lives.
Heroin Overdose Statistics and Facts
Nick Wing of the Huffington Post reported that in the 18 years between 1996 and 2014, naloxone was involved in 26,463 heroin addiction overdose reversals. These reversals were reported by non-medical personnel and published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The good side of naloxone is that it figures in reversing half of all overdoses within a community, on average, when used appropriately and correctly. The negative aspect is that when it’s not used appropriately, it can send someone suffering from heroin addiction into an immediate, strong, and very unpleasant withdrawal. It is so unpleasant, reports Wing, that the person will not be encouraged to continue abusing heroin.
Naloxone distribution in Texas and in other states has also been associated with an increase in the cost of the drug, a situation that many people view as opportunistic of the drug manufacturers. The manufacturers, on the other hand, insist that their production costs have risen.
The Network for Public Health Law (NPHL) tells us that almost 70 people die each day throughout the United States from pain pill or heroin addiction overdose. That amounts to about 25,000 deaths per year. In just the years between 2010 and 2013, heroin addiction overdose deaths increased by 270 percent.
Narcan is the brand-name formulation of naloxone. The NPHL confirms what doctors already know, that naloxone does not get people high and is not habit forming. Initially many people opposed its widespread use because they felt it could be abused and also they felt it was an easy-out for people affected by heroin addiction, that they would be careless about overdosing because they knew naloxone could save them.
It’s important to understand that even if a person is given naloxone they must still present for emergency medical treatment. The dose of the opioid that they’ve taken might well outlast the effects of the naloxone, and after their initial recovery they could very well slip back into overdose status.
The real road to recovery lies not with naloxone but with seeking treatment, preferably at a certified, licensed methadone treatment program. But it’s good to have the reins loosened so that people with an addiction to heroin can access naloxone to reverse overdose. Call your local methadone treatment program to learn more about it and find out where in your community it’s available.