Boom In Overdose-Reversing Drug Is Tied To Fewer Drug Deaths

Aug 7, 2019
Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

NEW YORK — Prescriptions of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone are soaring, and experts say that could be a reason overdose deaths have stopped rising for the first time in nearly three decades.

In Bangor Friday evening, a crowd gathered in Pickering Square to observe National Overdose Awareness Day.

AP Photo

More than 500 lives have been saved over the past 2 years across Maine using the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

That’s according to the Maine Attorney General's Office, which has provided the drug to 84 agencies across the state over the past two years.

In a written release Maine Attorney General Mills says the statistic is "another grim milestone in our state's fight against opioids," and that more can and should be done to address Maine's opiate epidemic.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press/file

Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday approved new rules that would increase access to naloxone, the drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Board of Pharmacy is set to discuss making an overdose-reversing drug available without a prescription.
Maine lawmakers in 2016 passed a bill to make naloxone available without a doctor's prescription, but the law languished as regulators said lawmakers needed to change its wording for it to become effective.
Lawmakers fixed the law last year, but the latest rules have stalled for months.

Gov. Paul LePage said he opposes rules that will allow pharmacists to dispense the overdose revival drug Narcan, because these rules would also allow 18-year-olds to buy and administer the drug, while they are still unable to purchase cigarettes or alcohol.

LePage told Maine Public call-in show host Jennifer Rooks that he'll oppose the new Narcan rules unless “everything else is 18.”

Rooks asked, “But if cigarettes and alcohol stay 21, you're not going to support it?”

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press/file

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Gov. Paul LePage said people who're not old enough to buy cigarettes shouldn't have access to the overdose antidote naloxone at pharmacies.
The Republican governor told New England Cable News that he opposes the 18-year-old age threshold in the rules because Maine has raised the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. LePage said he believed the age for naloxone should also be 21.
The naloxone law was passed last year, but the rules have stalled.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine's Republican governor says people "on opiates'' who get "free shots'' of Narcan have an advantage over those who pay for allergy medication.
Gov. Paul LePage during a Tuesday radio call-in said he got a letter from a dad whose family members have to carry "pens'' for allergic reactions to peanuts and bee stings.
LePage discussed his bill to fine local governments that don't charge individuals who repeatedly overdose for the cost of administering opioid antidotes.

Portland’s police department is the latest law enforcement agency to hand out an overdose-reversal drug to its patrol officers.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck says he had resisted the move, but the frequency of opioid overdoses in the city makes it necessary.

Maine Governor Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage has doubled down on his claim that a Deering High School student was revived from a heroin overdose three times in a week.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A small town police chief is criticizing Maine Gov. Paul LePage for vetoing a bill that would allow access to an opioid overdose antidote.

Chief Damien Pickel of Milo, which has fewer than 2,000 residents, takes issue with the Republican governor's contention that the antidote Narcan does not save lives.

In a Facebook post, Pickel tells LePage to listen to the state's first responders and medical community before making "further uninformed statements.''

PORTLAND, Maine - Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill designed to make the overdose reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription.

The legislation is designed to allow family members or friends to counteract an opiate overdose more quickly than emergency responders, in what is seen as a life or death situation.

In his veto message the governor says that naloxone, also known as Narcan, does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose.

Democratic state Sen. Cathy Breen, the bill's lead Senate co-sponsor, says that's just not correct.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine already allows first responders, law enforcement and family members to administer the drug naloxone to people in immediate danger of drug overdose.

Governor LePage appears largely alone in opposing legislation to expanded the availabiliy of Narcan.  Narcan, or naloxone, is a drug that can revive people who've overdosed on opiates.  Democratic State Rep Sara Gideon of Freeport says it must be given within one-to-three hours of an overdose.   If it is, Gideon says the drug can combat the effects of the opitate in a person's bloodstream.  The governor initially opposed expanded availability, then relented and supported allowing one family member  access to the drug.