Pharmacies around New Jersey gave out more than 16,000 free packs, amounting to more than 32,000 doses, of Narcan Tuesday in a Department of Human Services program aimed at fighting the opioid crisis.
Narcan, or naloxone, is an opioid antagonist which binds opioid receptors and can reverse or block on opioid overdose. The one-day distribution of free naloxone was part of a pilot program approved by the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal called the day “incredibly successful.” He was in one of the 175 participating pharmacies during the hand-out.
“People of all stripes were walking in,” Elnahal said. “Folks that were driving up in luxury cars, folks that were dropped off by a bus, and they were picking it up for their family members, their loved ones, themselves, a friend. The stories were varied and it just spoke to how many communities this has struck, which is literally every community.
“Imagine the number of lives that could potentially be saved, someone having it in their home and not having to wait for an EMT to come and save them,” he said.
The drug retails for around $140 for a two-dose box, and generic naloxone sells for between $20 and $40. Funding for the DHS program came from the state budget, which for two years running has allotted $100 million to fight the opioid crisis.
“[The opioid crisis] is an emergency in New Jersey. We had over 3,000 deaths last year. We’ve had over 800 deaths and counting this year, and that’s probably an underestimate because the data sources we have take a little while to update,” he said.
Some New Jersey pharmacies currently participate in a standing order program that allows people to come in and buy Narcan without a prescription, but that program requires purchasers to provide their name. During Tuesday’s hand out, no names were asked. Pharmacists simply provided instructions, gave training, and handed over the product. And people turned out.
“It’s pretty amazing that folks heard the message and responded in droves,” Elnahal said.
NJBIZ originally reported that the DHS program gave out more than 10,000 doses of Narcan. This number has been updated.