News release: Minnesota makes it easier to get opiate overdose reversal drug at pharmacies

News Release
April 14, 2017

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Minnesota makes it easier to get opiate overdose reversal drug at pharmacies

Minnesota is making it easier for Minnesotans to get the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone for themselves, family members or others at risk of an overdose.

“We are encouraging people who are concerned about their opiate use or that of someone close to them to keep naloxone on hand in case of an emergency,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “This expanded pharmacy access gives people one more option for getting this potentially life-saving drug.”

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy have been working with local public health officials and pharmacists across the state to implement a new state law that allows Minnesotans to get naloxone (brand name Narcan) at a pharmacy without a prescription from their doctor. The state law passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2016 went into effect January 1 of this year.

"Today marks a day of great progress for the State of Minnesota in the ongoing fight against opioid addiction overdoses. Increasing access to Naloxone will save countless lives. This is only one part of our strategy to combat opioid addiction, but it’s a critical one.” Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center.

Giving naloxone and rescue breaths to a person experiencing an opiate overdose is a safe and effective way to immediately reverse the overdose and give emergency responders time to arrive. Minnesota drug overdose deaths were more than four times as high in 2015 than in 2000. In 2015, more than half of the drug-related deaths involved prescription medications rather than illegal street drugs.

“Getting naloxone from a pharmacy is an option that may prevent a tragedy and be more comfortable and convenient for some people,” said Cody Wiberg, Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. “But the Board encourages people to also seek out care from medical, mental and/or chemical health providers.”

Naloxone comes as an injection or a nasal spray. When naloxone is injected into a muscle, it works within 2-5 minutes. The life-saving effects last for about 30-45 minutes. Multiple doses may be required and are recommended if minimal or no response is observed within 5 minutes of administration.

Naloxone access is particularly important for people who use:

  • Heroin
  • High doses of pain pills or prescription opioids
  • Opioids along with benzodiazepines (a prescription medication most commonly used to treat generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Long-acting opioids
  • Prescription medications not as prescribed
  • Opioids after a period of sobriety

People interested in naloxone can go to their preferred pharmacy and ask if they carry the drug. Pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens have protocols in place. If a pharmacy doesn’t carry it, ask them to adopt the state of Minnesota naloxone protocol.

Increasing easy access to naloxone is one of the state’s ongoing strategies for preventing overdose deaths. Thursday Governor Mark Dayton announced that Minnesota is one of eight states partnering to develop and implement strategies to expand access to opioid addiction treatment. News release: Minnesota Joins National Effort to Expand Access to Opioid Addiction Treatment (document removed by source agency).

Other efforts include the Opioid Prescribing Work Group, which is writing opioid prescribing guidelines for Minnesota, and an upgrade of the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program to include alerts for prescribers about patients potentially misusing narcotics.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Opioid State Targeted Response Grants will include investments in naloxone distribution, chemical dependency treatment support and a state-wide media campaign. The Minnesota Department of Health is launching an opioid data dashboard available to the public this summer, and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is seeking funding to create real-time alerts about risks to the community such as fentanyl-laced opioids.

The Minnesota Poison Control System can also provide immediate, on-the-phone help during a drug overdose emergency. It can be helpful to save the poison control number, 1-800-222-1222, into your cell phone.

Minnesotans with unused medications can bring them to a drop-off box or participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 29.

More information is available at the department’s naloxone webpage.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications