Recently, CVS pharmacy pulled all cigarettes from their stores replacing their shelves with smoking cessation products and posters offering support to stop smoking. This may be viewed as a risk for their profit margins but CVS stands by their decision to focus on health. Not only has CVS taken a stand on the prevention of smoking, they have taken an even bigger stand on overdose prevention in the state of Rhode Island: CVS will provide access to naloxone (Narcan) in all of their 60 Rhode Island stores without a prescription.
Rhode Island overdose deaths from opiates including heroin have outpaced other deaths in the state. As reported in the Providence Journal, in the first four months of 2014, 90 Rhode Islanders died from accidental drug overdoses, a 23 percent increase from the 73 drug overdoses reported during the same period last year.
If given in time, Narcan, also known as naloxone offers immediate help by restoring breathing for anyone overdosing from the use of an opiate pain medicine such as OxyContin or heroin opiate. Although CPR and 911 may need to be called, administering naloxone may be key to saving a person's life. Walgreens pharmacy was the first pharmacy to start a naloxone distribution program in Rhode Island. It has now expanded to all of their 26 stores. CVS's decision to join Walgreens pharmacy in Rhode Island to dispense naloxone without a prescription is a public health service that we can applaud. Like the Walgreens distribution program, CVS pharmacists will train customers to properly administer the drug as well as educate them to seek medical attention. CVS spokesman, Michael DeAngelis stated, "It will be like getting a flu shot, you will be able to walk in and not need a prescription."
Although national news has reported on CVS's decision to discontinue selling cigarettes, the national news should also be highlighting CVS and Walgreens in their efforts to save a life and reduce overdose deaths. Providing access to naloxone should be a public service announcement like no other. Individuals will only seek the naloxone if they know about it, know how to administer it, know CPR and understand that 911 still may need to be called. Spread the word, there is hope in combating accidental drug overdose right at your pharmacy.
Thank you, CVS Health, for following Walgreens' lead and providing naloxone in all of your stores in Rhode Island. It is a service that will save lives. It is a service that should spread to every state in the nation.
By end of August, CVS will have begun offering Narcan without prescription to counter opiate overdoses.