Any high school in the U.S. that wants to carry an emergency opioid overdose reversal kit will now be able to get one free of charge, thanks to a new initiative announced Monday by the Clinton Foundation and the drug's manufacturer.
Adapt Pharma, manufacturers of a nasal-spray form of naloxone, also known as Narcan, has partnered with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative to further expand access to the life-saving drug, the two groups said at the final day of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative Activation Summit. Naloxone is nonaddictive, nontoxic and easy to administer, especially through nasal application. It reverses the effects of an opioid overdose by essentially blocking the opioid receptors that heroin and many prescription painkillers target.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a nasal-spray version of naloxone in November, though it had previously been gaining popularity among first responders and advocacy groups as a first line of defense to prevent surging opioid overdose deaths across the nation.
"We are pleased to encourage public-private collaborations expanding access to naloxone," Rain Henderson, CEO of Clinton Health Matters Initiative, said in a press release. "We are hopeful this effort will facilitate a dialogue amongst students, educators, health professionals, and families about the risks of opioid overdose and ensure naloxone is available in schools that decide to take steps to address opioid overdose emergencies."
In addition to helping schools obtain naloxone, Adapt Pharma also announced that it had given a grant to the National Association of School Nurses to support opioid overdose education.
"We understand the crucial role schools can play to change the course of the opioid overdose epidemic by working with students and families. We also want every high school in the country to be prepared for an opioid emergency by having access to a carton of Narcan Nasal Spray at no cost," Adapt Pharma CEO Seamus Mulligan said in a press release. "We look forward to working with our partners to implement these initiatives which build on the significant progress being made by legislators and community groups."
A carton of Adapt's Narcan Nasal Spray typically contains two devices, each capable of delivering one dose, at the cost of $75 total. In November, Adapt announced that it was coordinating with the Clinton Foundation to make naloxone less expensive, following significant cost increases by other manufacturers over the previous year.
Opioid abuse has been a growing problem among younger Americans in recent years, with many high school users starting with prescription pills before transitioning to heroin.
Robert Childs, executive director for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and an advocate for naloxone and other less punitive approaches to drug dependence, hailed the latest effort as a step in the right direction.
"By placing the opioid overdose reversal medicine naloxone at the site of potential overdoses in high schools, the designated school responder can reverse a opioid-based overdose at the scene, decreasing the chances of death and brain damage from respiratory failure," he said.
Childs added that naloxone was only one way to decrease overdose deaths among young people, and suggested that policymakers also enact 911 good Samaritan policies at the state level, as well as in colleges and schools, to offer amnesty to anyone who reports a drug overdose.
He also suggested that lawmakers could take broader steps to make it easier for individuals who use drugs, as well as their loved ones, to get hold of naloxone, and to expand affordable access to methadone and buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opiate dependence.