Will Narcan’s availability at Walgreens help the opioid crisis?
Friday, November 03, 2017
There is little dispute that America is facing a crisis of epic proportions as it relates to deaths from opioid overdoses. From 2013-2016, there was a 540 percent increase of reported deaths nationally. With up to 64,000 deaths reported in 2016 from overdoses, public health officials note that this current crisis is outpacing the HIV epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
However, unlike the HIV crisis — which was primarily an urban problem — the current opioid crisis is crossing all geographical and socioeconomic barriers. In fact, death rates in rural areas are outpacing large metropolitan areas.
In an effort to combat the rising death rates, Walgreens announced Oct. 24 that its pharmacies will stock Narcan Nasal Spray in all of its pharmacies nationwide. The Narcan Nasal Spray was approved in November 2015 and is the only approved nasal form of naloxone — the reversing agent for opioids.
"By stocking Narcan in all our pharmacies, we are making it easier for families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case it is needed," Rick Gates, Walgreens group vice president of pharmacy, noted in a press release. "As a pharmacy we are committed to making Narcan more accessible in the communities we serve."
Selling at about $37.50 per dose, the Narcan Nasal Spray is a much more affordable alternative to the Evzio injectable device that costs about $700. The nasal spray will be available in 45 states without individual prescriptions and aims to provide peace of mind for families with loved ones who take opioids, both prescribed and from the streets.
Walgreens also noted that they would be providing education about Narcan to patients who are prescribed high doses of opioids, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On the tail of the Walgreens announcement, President Donald Trump on Oct. 26 directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. The announcement is seen as a critical first step to solutions and opening up funding to assist with the crisis.
As part of the action, Trump is suspending an outdated ruling that prevented Medicaid funding to larger treatment centers. Long seen as a road block to access to treatment for lower socioeconomic groups, this could pave the way to thousands who received insurance coverage via the Affordable Care Act, but still lacked access to much needed treatment.
As a result of the announcement, the HHS could use its authority to negotiate lower prices for treatment options and medications such as naloxone.
Currently, dozen of companies are competing in the $20 billion opioid market, making financial investors take notice and the public questioning who is really winning in the opioid battle. The advent of Adapt's Narcan Nasal Spray provides an affordable, easy-to-use product that meets a growing need.
In 2014, only 10,331 naloxone scripts were written. However, in comparison to the 240 million opioid prescriptions written that same year, financial analysts see the market as fertile for making money.
Opiant Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the nasal spray delivery device has seen its stock raise from about $5 per share in January 2017 to a skyrocketing $35 per share as the Narcan Nasal Spray becomes more available.
This begs the question: Does the pharmaceutical industry really want the crisis to end? Or is a new economic opportunity being groomed at the expense of the public?
Any way you look at it, there are no quick solutions to this complex problem that is ravaging America. However, it is clear the families and loved ones of those lost or at risk of death are seeking help, and it may come in the form of an available reversing agent.
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