Health

Iowa pharmacies offer free Narcan under new state initiative

Iowa pharmacies dispensing opioid-reversal drug to help lower death toll

A two-pack box of Narcan nasal spray, the name brand of the lifesaving overdose drug naloxone. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Ga
A two-pack box of Narcan nasal spray, the name brand of the lifesaving overdose drug naloxone. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses overdoses from opioids such as heroin and painkillers, will be made available to qualifying adult Iowans for free at local pharmacies through a new statewide program.

The Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced a partnership with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy to sponsor the initiative,

The program is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to address opioid-associated deaths across the state, which accounted for 206 deaths in 2017 and 137 deaths in 2018.

While state officials say these efforts have led to a reduction in overall deaths in 2017 and 2018, preliminary data for 2019 shows 155 deaths, an increase from 2018.

By offering Narcan, a brand name for naloxone, for free, IDPH Opioid Initiatives Director Kevin Gabbert said officials hope to prepare more Iowans in case they encounter someone who has overdosed, or use opioids themselves and want to prepare others around them.

“While the dynamics of opioid misuse are complicated, greater availability of naloxone can help keep people alive, offer a chance to get help and begin a journey of recovery,” Gabbert said in a news release.

As of July 1, those 18 and older can request a screening by a pharmacist to determine their eligibility to receive Narcan. If approved, the pharmacy can dispense up to two 4 mg nasal spray kits at no charge.

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Pharmacies will be reimbursed at 100 percent the cost of Narcan, plus a $20 dispensing fee, according to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. The dispensing fee accounts for the clinical services of the pharmacists to conduct the screening, according to the board.

“This program completely eliminates financial barriers to access the antidote to opioid overdoses,” said Iowa Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Andrew Funk. “It’s wonderful to see the confidence the department has in pharmacies and pharmacists across the state of Iowa by its willingness to partner with pharmacists, one of the most accessible health care providers. I’m excited to see the impact that this new endeavor will have on the health of Iowans.”

Late last year, the state public health department partnered with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to launch the Tele-Naloxone Project, which mailed Narcan to Iowans for free. This project was funded through the State Opioid Response grant, $4.4 million in federal funding given to Iowa to address opioid-associated deaths.

Other past efforts include a statewide naloxone standing order — making the medication available without prescription — from the medical director of IDPH as well as free naloxone kits to law enforcement agencies and emergency departments.

For more information about accessing naloxone, visit naloxoneiowa.org.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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