Skip to main content

Naloxone access, community efforts work to curb opioid abuse


Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 people dying in 2014 as a result of lethal drug overdoses — 18,893 of which were related to prescription pain relievers. The epidemic has drawn the attention of everyone from President Barack Obama to local first responders, all of whom have pointed to the drug naloxone as one of the critical first lines of defense in saving the lives of thousands from accidental overdose. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose, but until recently it could only be accessed by prescription.

(To download Special Report: Double Down on Health, click here.)

To make naloxone more accessible, CVS Health has utilized prescriptive authority or established standing orders or collaborative practice agreements with physicians in 36 states in the past year, which enable CVS pharmacists to dispense the drug to patients without a prescription. Most recently, the company announced Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Missouri and West Virginia began dispensing naloxone without a prescription in September.

Tom Davis of CVS Health“CVS Health is dedicated to helping the communities we serve address and prevent drug abuse,” CVS Health VP pharmacy professional practices Tom Davis told Drug Store News. “We believe expanding access to naloxone, a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdose, will save lives and give more people a chance to get the help they need for recovery.”

Recognizing that cost can be the biggest factor for some patients — with some versions of the drug having seen a 17-fold increase in price in recent years — CVS Health also is working to make easy-to-use versions of naloxone more affordable. The company recently entered a partnership with Adapt Pharma, which makes Narcan Nasal Spray, to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for patients without insurance that get the nasal spray.

“Having a ready-to-use dose of naloxone in a nasal spray device makes administration of this life-saving medication quick and easy for friends and families of loved ones struggling with addiction in an emergency overdose situation,” Davis said. “Through this partnership, CVS Pharmacy patients purchasing Narcan Nasal Spray without insurance will receive a $35 discount coupon to purchase the medication, reducing the out-of-pocket cost by nearly 25%.”

Besides its efforts to improve naloxone access, CVS Health also is placing a focus on prevention of prescription drug abuse that could lead to overdoses — including online resources and safe disposal centers. The company recently added clinical information and resources about prescription drug abuse prevention to, and it has launched the Pharmacists Teach program, through which CVS pharmacists visit high school health classes to talk about the dangers of drug abuse. Pharmacists Teach has reached more than 100,000 students so far, and CVS Health has decided to continue the program for another year.

The company also has collaborated with the Partnership for Drug Free Kids to operate the Medication Disposal for Safer Communities program, donating more than 600 drug disposal units to police departments nationwide. To date, the program has removed more than 46 metric tons of unwanted medication from homes across the country. In addition to its addiction resources and community outreach, the CVS Health Foundation in September announced a partnership with to launch a peer-to-peer addiction and intervention program. The text message campaign will offer information about prescription drug safety and offer tips on confronting peers about abuse.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds