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This One Prescription Could Save Dozens of Lives

Intropin/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
This prescription drug could help save the lives of people with opiate use disorder.

From Texas Standard:

This morning, while most of us were sleeping, something happened in the state that might mean the difference between life and death for you or someone you love.

Much has been said and written about the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Of the 25 cities with the highest rate of opioid abuse, four are in Texas –Texarkana, Amarillo, Odessa and Longview. And over the past 15 years, opioid overdoses have risen 80 percent.

A drug called naloxone can help prevent many, if not most, deaths from overdoses in the event of an emergency, but the drug is highly regulated and available only with a doctor’s prescription.


But now Texans will be able to obtain naloxone from any of the 714 Walgreen pharmacies in the state, without having to get a prescription. All they have to do is walk in and ask. Dr. Alicia Kowalchuk, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, has already written the prescription for the whole state.

Last legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that allows naloxone to be prescribed by a standing order, rather than by individual prescriptions between a doctor and their patient. Kowalchuk says though many states have a similar law on the books, it hasn't happened yet here in Texas. The law went into effect seven to eight months ago, but Kowalchuk is the first to take advantage of it.

"I was approached by an advocacy organization trying to increase access to naloxone within the state and asked if I would be willing to sign the order," she says.

Naloxone doesn’t stop an overdose, but instead replaces the opiate to lessen the effect of the drug.

"Naloxone attaches to the same receptors or places in the brain that any opiate does,” Kowalchuk says. “Basically (it) deactivates, or turns off, that receptor."

Kowalchuk says the availability of naloxone is a first step in treatment for opioid abuse.

"I think saving lives is the first priority,” she says. “In order to get someone into treatment for an opiate use disorder, they have to survive their overdose. … We still need to be pushing for more access to treatment and encouraging folks that do experience an opiate overdose to engage (in the) treatment community and seek treatment for their disorder.”

Web post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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