Need Narcan? In some parts of NJ, it’s hard to find
Naloxone, also known by the trade name Narcan, used to revive people who overdose on heroin and other opioid drugs -- and it’s available in New Jersey without a prescription.
But a new study finds it’s harder to get it than you might imagine.
Researchers at the Rutgers University contacted 90 retail pharmacies in 10 Garden State municipalities to find out if they carried naloxone.
According to Dr. Diane Calello, the executive director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, what they found was naloxone is not available in many locations.
“The pharmacies in New Jersey that seem to have it were in areas where there was a lower incidence of opioid emergency department visits and a higher median household income," she said.
Rresearchers found naloxone was available in 60 to 70% of retail pharmacies in more affluent, lower-population communities such as Little Silver, Readington and Flemington, but was available in less than 25% of lower-income, high-population cities such as Camden, Newark and Atlantic City.
“There’s clearly an association there that municipalities where there is a higher rate of opioid overdoes going to the emergency department are less likely to have naloxone in the pharmacy," she said.
In other words, areas that need naloxone the most are least likely to have it available
Calello said pharmacies were asked “do you carry it” and not “is it in stock,” so it doesn’t seem likely pharmacies that did not have naloxone had run out of it.
She said more pharmacies carry the drug in affluent areas in part because it’s expensive.
“For example, brand name naloxone that is given inter-nasally can cost $70 or $80 out of pocket," Calello said. “The decision to stock it is also probably a factor of whether you think that the people who come into your pharmacy are going to buy it, or can afford it.”
Calello said the study illustrates “there’s a lot more work to be done to get naloxone into the hands of people who could really use it. We have to do a better job getting those people the Naloxone that they need.”
She added in many instances, life-saving drugs are simply too expensive for people to buy even if they are available.
“We shouldn’t think that just because we’ve made it legal to buy naloxone in a pharmacy that people are actually able to do it," Calello said. “I hope that more and more people have naloxone and talk to their doctors about having naloxone because you really could be the person that saves a life if you happen to be carrying it.”
She noted in this sample Walgreens and CVS were much more likely to have it than other pharmacies surveyed.
75% of Walgreens and CVS pharmacies contacted carried naloxone, compared to only 14% of other retail pharmacies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jersey’s opioid-related death rates are among the fastest growing in the nation, rising 29% from 1,376 deaths in 2016 to 1,969 deaths in 2017.
It is estimated that more than 3,000 overdose drug deaths occurred last year in New Jersey.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com