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State says more than half of pharmacies participating in effort to curb opioid overdose

Feb 21, 2018

Last May, Michigan health officials authorized a way for people at risk of opioid overdose to get Naloxone directly from a registered pharmacy without a doctor's prescription.  The authorization also allows family members, friends and other people who may be able to help a person at risk of overdose to obtain Naloxone directly from a registered pharmacy.

Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a medication designed to reverse overdoses.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 54% of the state's pharmacies have registered to dispense the potentially life-saving medication under the authorization, called a standing order.

"This is a statewide epidemic," said Lynn Sutfin, a MDHHS spokesperson. "And so it would be great to have 100% participation."

Sutfin said the new system saves time and money for people trying to access Naloxone.

"It's not having to take that step to go to the doctor's," said Sutfin. "It's being able to just go to that corner pharmacist that's participating in the program."

According to the MDHHS, nearly 5,700 orders for Naloxone were dispensed in the last six months, about two-thirds through prescriptions from doctors and about one-third directly from pharmacies registered under the new process.

Deaths from opioid overdoses have skyrocketed in Michigan. According to the MDHHS, from 1999 to 2016, 7,300 people died from an opioid overdose. Sixty percent of them died between 2010 and 2016.