Opioid antidote available over the counter in Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Naloxone, or Narcan, is a drug-credited for reversing the effects of an overdose.

“If you can save someone’s life with this, then why not have it,” Elizabeth Royal, pharmacist at Belew Pharmacy, said.

The drug is now being sold over the counter in Tennessee.

“It works on a prescription basis, so whether they’re going to a pain clinic or their primary care doctor does the prescribing of the pain medicine, they will either write it or we have what’s called a collaborative practice agreement which is where we can generate a prescription,” Royal said.

Previous story: Narcan: What is it and how does it work?

Pharmacists at Belew Pharmacy have so far filled between 30 and 40 prescriptions of naloxone since they started carrying it in April.

Many pharmacists and community leaders say it’s a lifesaving resource for accidental opiate overdoses.

“I think the more we can have this readily available in our community, more officers being able to carry it, our first responders being able to carry it, and just individual people in our community having this, the better it will be for those who are struggling with addiction or may have a reaction to a medicine that they’re taking to save their life,” Deborah Crouse, media relations and project director for the Metro Drug Coalition, said.

First responders in East Tennessee have been carrying the drug for the past decade, but Rural/Metro Fire Capt. Jeff Bagwell said they’ve been using it far more frequently in recent years, as the opioid epidemic has become more prevalent.

He agrees that the drug can save lives when used properly, but says over the counter nalaxone is not the answer.

“We have a lot of mixed emotions about it from our side as far as whether or not it should be sold over the counter,” Bagwell said. “It has been good for us to have. We have been able to save a lot of lives with it. But some of them we wind up seeing the next day or the same family and the same house.”

He said that the more nalaxone is made available to the general public, it creates a supply shortage for the first responders, who use this drug about two dozen times a week in Knox County to save lives.

“What we’ll have now and we’re having it already is a shortage coming to emergency responders,” Bagwell said. “We can’t get our hands on it, because it’s going to the pharmacies and to other agencies, and the first responders need it more.”

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