In 2015, California permitted pharmacists to furnish Naloxone – the antidote drug for opioid overdose – without a prescription. Pursuant to AB 1535, pharmacists who wish to dispense naloxone must complete a one-hour training and briefly train its customers purchasing naloxone on its use. In addition, the protocol requires pharmacists to screen customers, provide them a copy of the naloxone fact sheet, and thoroughly consult on the routes of administration, side effects, and timing (the consultation cannot be waived). Proper documentation of furnishing and consultation should be saved in the patient’s profile.

Despite this initiative, not many pharmacies embraced the idea of furnishing naloxone (largely due to low reimbursement rates). Very few independent pharmacies currently carry naloxone. Among the chains, only CVS implemented the initiative in all its stores.

To further increase access to naloxone, last month, the California Department of Public Health issued a statewide standing order for naloxone authorizing 27 organizations across the state — mostly pharmacies and addiction treatment centers — to distribute and administer the medication without a prescription. See San Francisco Chronicle for a list of the facilities.

Despite these efforts, the need for naloxone and proper training is still prevalent. Between 1,900-2,000 Californians die each year from opioid overdoses. Often, these people do not have access to medical care and obtaining a prescription for naloxone is out of the question. Thus, more overdose prevention programs will sprout across the state. For example, see San Francisco Department of Public Health efforts on DOPE Project providing training and assistance to drug users and service providers such as homeless shelters and methadone counselors.