HHS spotlights naloxone for Overdose Awareness Day

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In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spotlighted the benefits of naloxone on its blog Monday.

Naloxone, a Food and Drug Administration-approved medication, is an overdose reversing drug – available in three forms – nasal spray, injectable, and auto-injector. At least one form of Naloxone is covered by most health insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare.

According to HHS, since July 2016, Naloxone prescriptions have increased 773 percent. The department said that expanding the drug’s availability and distribution has been part of its strategy to fight back against the opioid epidemic, and includes co-prescribing naloxone in conjunction with opioid prescriptions, or prescribing the drug to at-risk individuals.

“As of July 2020, the FDA announced it is requiring changes to the prescribing information for opioids and medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). These changes include recommending that as a routine part of prescribing these medications, healthcare professionals should discuss the availability of naloxone with patients and caregivers, both when beginning and renewing treatment,” the department said on its blog. “Additionally, they should consider prescribing naloxone based on a patient’s risk factors for overdose.”

The department also noted the growing trend of state legislation and regulations that require health care providers to co-prescribe naloxone with opioid prescriptions to patients considered at risk of an overdose. According to the tracking, the department does of the drug, increases in Naloxone prescriptions have gone up steadily in those states.

The department said in California, legislation that went into effect in 2019 required that healthcare providers offer naloxone prescriptions when certain conditions were met. Prior to the law going into effect, the state saw approximately 1,800 naloxone prescriptions monthly. In the first month after the law went into effect, Naloxone prescriptions increased by 282 percent, and have averaged approximately 13,800 per month since.

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