Overdose Medicine Available Without Rx

Jan 23, 2017

A drug that reverses opioid overdose is available in South Dakota without a prescription. The option is a response to national trends in painkiller abuse. Pharmacists at Walgreens can dispense the drug. Starting February 1st, Avera and Hy-Vee pharmacies also offer the medication to keep in case of emergency.

A medicine called naloxone reverses the toxic effects of taking too many painkillers. It’s the generic drug for the brand-name Narcan.

Dr. Matthew Stanley with Avera Health says using the nasal spray is the first step in saving someone who overdoses on opioids.

"Because it’s a relatively safe option to just administer it, I wouldn’t be hesitant if they began to show signs of inability to get their breath, lips turning blue, getting sedated," Stanley says.

Stanley says people should call 911 after using naloxone. He says some people intentionally abuse drugs like heroin or certain prescriptions. Stanley says others accidentally take too much of painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine or codeine.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Hy-Vee Pharmacist Justin Manning says people who use pain meds should consider having naloxone on hand.

"You can actually come to the pharmacy, just like getting a flu shot, you’ve got to fill out a consent form," Manning says. "We talk with the patient, and then we dispense that medication to that patient."

Manning says people can purchase naloxone for themselves or to use for a family member or friend. He says some insurance plans keep the price around $10 or $20. Otherwise the medicine can cost a couple hundred dollars out of pocket.

The pharmacist says some drug companies offer rebates when a patient doesn’t have insurance to cover a medication.

In 2015, more than 40 people in South Dakota died from accidentally overdosing on pain medicine.