When Activated, Handheld Device Gives Verbal Instructions and Administers Overdose Antidote Naloxone
Dramatic Increase in Overdose Deaths Sparks National Momentum Toward Health-Based Drug Policies
Overdose prevention advocates are welcoming the news of a new overdose reversal tool coming to pharmacies this summer. The FDA recently announced approval of Evzio, a handheld device containing naloxone, designed for laypeople to use outside of hospital settings. When activated, the device will give verbal instructions about how to use Evzio to deliver the medication.
The Drug Policy Alliance praised the FDA for continuing to address the opiate overdose problem in the U.S. “We applaud the FDA making naloxone more available among people in a position to prevent opiate deaths and save lives,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “While any new technology that makes using naloxone more user-friendly is a welcome development, intramusucular and intranasal forms of naloxone continue to remain available and affordable. We encourage people to acquire whichever form of naloxone is most convenient and affordable for them. And we encourage the manufacturers to ensure the affordability of this life-saving product,” added Ralston.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have recently amended their laws to increase access to naloxone – with DPA spearheading many of these efforts – resulting in more than 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001. States like Washington and Rhode Island are already helping to make naloxone more readily available in pharmacies to people who may witness an overdose, and a bill in California by Assemblymember Richard Bloom to similarly expand naloxone access in pharmacies is currently being considered by the legislature.
Naloxone hydrochloride, also known as Narcan, was first approved to reverse opiate overdose by the FDA in the early 1970s. It is usually administered by syringe, as either an intramuscular injection, or intranasally, with a nasal atomizer device attached to the syringe, making it possible to spray naloxone nasally. Naloxone works quickly, usually within minutes, but will not reverse overdoses caused by substances other than opiates. Ralston encourages people to call 911 or seek immediate medical attention if they suspect they are witnessing an overdose.
Ralston explained, “Even under the best circumstances, when naloxone is available and used effectively, medical attention may still be necessary. Calling 911 is always recommended in any potentially life-threatening situation.” Fifteen states and D.C. now have ‘911 Good Samaritan’ laws, which provide limited protections from arrest or prosecution for minor drug law violations for people who summon help to the scene of a suspected overdose.
“If this new device helps some people feel more comfortable and confident about using naloxone during a time when they may be panicking, that can only be a good thing. We hope a variety of pharmacies will carry a full range of affordable naloxone products,” said Ralston.