WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Hy-Vee Inc. and CHI Health have made naloxone available without a prescription at Hy-Vee pharmacies in Nebraska, and plan to make it available soon at CHI Health pharmacies. Nebraska marks the fifth state in Hy-Vee’s eight-state region where it is offering the medication without a prescription.
In Nebraska, pharmacists can dispense naloxone without a prescription through a physician-signed protocol with a designated pharmacy or pharmacy chain. In a joint effort to help prevent opioid-related deaths, CHI Health provided Hy-Vee the physician-signed protocol. Previously, the only way for individuals to obtain naloxone was through their doctor or other prescriber, followed by a trip to the pharmacy for the drug. And while naloxone is known to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, the medication has no effect if opioids are absent.
“Time is of the essence when someone is experiencing an opioid overdose. We believe that working with Hy-Vee to make this medication more quickly and easily accessible will have real impact on this crisis in Nebraska,” said Dr. Christopher Criscuolo, CHI Health pain medicine physician and anesthesiologist. “As physicians, we want to do all we can to save lives and that includes arming patients with information and tools like naloxone that can help save their friends and family.”
Naloxone is available upon request at Hy-Vee pharmacies in both nasal spray and injection forms, although, nasal spray is the most commonly used form. The drug is stored behind the counter and its cost varies depending on the form and whether a customer goes through his or her insurance or pays cash.
“We know the availability of this medication has the potential to save lives,” said Kristin Williams, senior vice president and chief health officer at Hy-Vee. “It’s vital that we do everything we can to assist those with a loved one who may encounter an opioid overdose by combining medications or by accidentally taking too much of a medication, being unaware of the life-threatening result.”
Hy-Vee pharmacists will also ensure that patients and their family members understand how to recognize signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer the medication. While naloxone is not a cure for an opioid overdose, it can assist an individual until emergency treatment is available and long-term treatment is provided.
Naloxone can be administered to any person who has overdosed on a wide range of opioids, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine, as well as heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.