A new website that offers Naloxone online may help stem the overdose crisis in West Virginia—and neighboring Pennsylvania—and save some lives in the interim, local health officials said.
Starting today, Naloxone will be available at naloxoneexchange.com, a site developed by Chicago-based Script Health. The platform, conceived by James Lott, a Chicago pharmacist, lets people buy the opioid antidote over the internet, saving them from the stigma of going to a pharmacy to buy it in public.
“Anything that expands access to Naloxone is a positive step,” said Laura Jones, executive director of Milan Puskar Health Right. “My concern would be that the cost is still prohibitive for many people. However, we need Naloxone in the community and it doesn’t matter how it gets there.
“For people who are struggling with a loved-one who is using drugs, this could be an easy, safe and more affordable way to access Naloxone.”
Naloxone, sold under the names of Narcan and Evzio, is used to block the effects of an opioid overdose. It is administered either intravenously or as a nasal spray.
On its website, Script Health sells one dose of Naloxone for $41, with a minimum purchase requirement of two doses, excluding shipping costs. Typically, two doses of Naloxone costs $140, said Robin Pollini, associate professor in the Department of Behavior Medicine & Psychiatry at West Virginia University.
At this time, Script Health is not taking insurance, but hopes to soon, James Lott, company CEO, said in an interview with The Dominion Post.
A recent Washington Post examination of Drug Enforcement Agency records from 2006 to 2012 shows 25.96 million prescription pain pills were supplied to Monongalia County, with the Walgreens pharmacy in Morgantown receiving the highest number of pills.
West Virginia, as a whole, received 853.48 million pills during the seven years. Strosnider Pharmacy in Kermit, Mingo County, received the largest number of pills at 13.16 million, the database said.
During the same time frame, 5.9 million pills were supplied to Preston County. Kingwood Pharmacy in Kingwood received the highest number of pills, according to the database. Marion County, meanwhile, received 12.68 million pills. The Walmart pharmacy in Fairmont received the largest number of pills.
WVU released findings from an April study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that found fentanyl-related deaths on the rise in West Virginia even as deaths related to prescription opioids. The study found between 2015 and 2017, deaths in the state from fentanyl overdoses were 122% of what they were between 2005 and 2014. Researchers said much of the increase could be attributed to the surge in illegal fentanyl imports from China.
Script Health, which tested the online Naxolone service earlier this year in Texas, hopes to eventually expand to all 50 states.
Pollini, who is also associate director of WVU’s Injury Control Research Center, said when a person overdoses they stop breathing, which means Naloxone needs to be administered right away.
“The person is unconscious and does not respond to sternum rubbing,” Pollini said. “They might also turn blue.
“You need to make sure you know where the drug is and you know how to use it.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta advised health care providers to consider offering Naloxone to people who have an increased risk factor for an overdose.
“At the end of the day, access to Naloxone is an integral part of a broader strategy because it can keep people alive until they can get into a recovery program. Access and use of Naloxone can change what would have been a fatal overdose into an opportunity for recovery,” said paramedic Joe Klass, Threat Preparedness specialist at Monongalia County Health Department.
Naloxone can be delivered in about three days after the order is placed. A prescription for the drug is needed in both West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Lott said.
“We are looking to partner with any public health or religious organizations in the state,” Lott said. “All live-saving medications should be easily accessible.”