Overdose-reversing drug to be available over the counter in Delaware

Thursday's bill-signing ceremony was held at  CVS in Dover.

It's coming soon to a pharmacy near you: the same medication police and first-responders have been using to treat opioid overdoses will now be available to individuals who want to have it on hand.

Access to the potentially life-saving drug was officially widened Thursday when Governor Carney signed a bill into law to make it possible for pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. To obtain the drug, people would be required to undergo training which is available online and would sign an acknowledgement form.

Pharmacists would not be subject to legal, criminal or disciplinary adverse actions if someone else administers the drug and injury or death occurs.

"Naloxone can give people a second chance to get medical care and be connected to resources to treat their addiction," Carney said. "Signing this legislation empowers pharmacists to join the fight against opioid overdoses and save more lives."

According to New Castle County Police Chief Col. Vaughn Bond, there have been 30 overdose deaths related to heroin in the county already this year, and more than 100 other serious overdoses. He is hopeful earlier action following an overdose can save lives.

"The fact of the matter is, seconds count," Bond said.

"First, save the life. Where there is life, there is hope," said David Humes, whose son died of an overdose a little over five years ago. He is now active with Attack Addiction, and said he was told the availability of naloxone or a "good samaritan" drug law at the time could have made a difference for his son.

According to health officials, naloxone was administered 1,535 times in 2016 and was used 866 times in the first half of 2017. 308 people died of overdoses last year, which was up from 228 reported overdose deaths in 2015. Through mid-July of this year there had been 121 suspected overdose deaths.

"As with any chronic disease, we need to ensure there is a comprehensive response that meets people where they are," Delaware Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said. "If someone is struggling with an opioid addiction, it is important that family members and loved ones get trained on appropriate naloxone use and have it on hand so they may help their lived ones in a time of need.

More information about addiction prevention and treatment is available at www.helpisherede.com

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.