File photo by Meg Potter/Cronkite News: Naloxone is now available over the counter at thousands of pharmacies across the United States – though some local pharmacies’ allocations can’t keep up with demand. Recent nationwide opioid settlements with drug makers and pharmacies have led to programs such as free kits at Phoenix libraries. Many people know the drug by its brand name, Narcan, which delivers the medication via nasal spray.
By Jacob Snelgrove/Cronkite News
PHOENIX – Naloxone became available over the counter with no prescription needed at thousands of pharmacies across the United States last week – though some local pharmacies aren’t able to keep up with demand based on allocations.
Naloxone is a Food and Drug Administration-approved medication that reverses an opioid overdose. Many people know it as Narcan, which delivers the medication via nasal spray.
Some Phoenix libraries have had naloxone kits available for the past month due to recent nationwide opioid settlements with drug makers and pharmacies.
The city of Phoenix began its naloxone program on Aug. 14 to ensure that it is easily accessible for members of the community. The city has distributed 1,600 overdose kits to all 17 public libraries in Phoenix. Kits are available five at a time at the front of each library, but many ran out of the initial supply of kits.
“We will continue to restock libraries with Narcan kits as supplies allow,” said Keyera Williams, public information officer for the city of Phoenix. “Given the high demand, we anticipate there will be periods when libraries will be out of stock.”
The kits include two doses of Narcan nasal spray, a pair of gloves, and an instruction pamphlet.
The Arizona Department of Health Services is paying for the naloxone, and the city of Phoenix is paying for gloves inside the kit.
The kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are meant for individuals.
Naloxone available at pharmacies – for a fee
Teresa Dickinson, owner of Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix for 17 years, has been selling naloxone to the public for the past five years when a state order allowed its distribution. Now that it’s available more widely, Dickinson said demand hasn’t changed.
Melrose Pharmacy sells naloxone for approximately $91; however, it currently can’t keep shelves stocked due to the drug now being allocated to many more pharmacies.
“We have a drug problem in the country, and we don’t want people to die from overdoses,” Dickinson said, noting it’s important for naloxone to be readily available to the public.
Since 2019, there have been more than 8,000 deaths from opioid overdoses in Arizona, according to the state health department.
Opioid settlements fund the fight against drugs
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes announced in June the final approval of national opioid agreements with drug makers Teva and Allergan and pharmacies CVS and Walgreens.
The state will receive more than $380 million from the opioid settlement over 15 years.
Approximately $213 million dollars will go to local governments throughout Arizona. Phoenix has already used some of the settlement money toward naloxone kits. More than $167 million dollars will be used for state-level efforts to combat the opioid crisis, according to Mayes’ office.
Mayes announced another settlement Tuesday: a nationwide agreement in principle with Kroger that will require the grocery chain to pay $1.37 billion to participating state and local governments for its role in the opioid crisis. It is unclear exactly how much of that money will be allocated to Arizona.
As of the June announcement, Arizona’s total share of nationwide opioid settlements was over $1.1 billion.
Maricopa County announced last month it will invest about $2 million of its opioid settlement funds into 12 community-based organizations. These local organizations will work to add recovery programs, expand youth prevention and treatment, and bolster harm-reduction programs. Some of the programs that received funding include Banner Health Foundation and Terros Health.
Editor’s Note: In Graham County, the Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition disperses naloxone kits for free.