Opioid Overdose Drug Now Available Without a Prescription in Texas

One of the last sessions of the Texas Legislature's rare moments of compassion and common sense is bearing fruit. A bipartisan coalition of representatives passed a bill that makes it easier to buy naloxone, a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Tuesday, Walgreens became the first pharmacy in Texas to make naloxone available without a doctor's prescription.

"It's pretty rare that you have a public health epidemic that we can do pretty simple measures to dramatically curb it," Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative co-founder Mark Kinzly told the Observer when the bill passed. "You'll probably never eliminate [the risk of drug overdose], but, boy, we can sure make a huge difference."

Naloxone is not a drug of abuse and users can't get high from it. The only thing it does is shut off access to the body's opioid receptors, stopping the effects of an overdose.  

The law allows any pharmacy that gets a standing prescription for the drug to dispense it to anyone who asks. Dr. Alicia Kowalchuk, an assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, wrote Walgreens one in May in coordination with the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative, allowing the pharmacy chain to begin stocking up on the drug for over-the-counter access.

"Naloxone is now available without requiring a prescription in more than 700 Walgreens pharmacies throughout the state," Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said in a statement. "The medication can be used in the event of an overdose to reverse the effects of heroin or other opioid drugs, and is administered by injection or nasal spray."

Beginning August 1, any pharmacist in the state who takes a one-hour class from the Texas Pharmacy Association will be able to dispense the drug to patients or third parties who show a medical need for potential overdose prevention. “The release of this standing order by the Texas Pharmacy Association is a landmark moment in the fight against opioid overdose," said Lucas Hill, assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Pharmacy. "Thanks to this effort, pharmacists will be empowered to save lives."

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young