A New York state senator from the Hudson Valley is asking the health commissioner to allow Narcan, the drug used to counteract heroin overdoses, to be sold without a prescription. Another state senator says there needs to be more training to administer the drug first.
State Senator David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat, has penned a letter to Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, with a request concerning Naloxone, commonly called Narcan, a drug used to counter an opioid overdose.
“Unfortunately, right now you need a prescription from a doctor in order to get Naloxone,” says Carlucci. “What I’ve asked the commissioner of health to do is to issue a standing order, which is in his right under New York State law where he can issue this standing order and allow people essentially to purchase Naloxone over the counter at their local pharmacy.”
Carlucci says the ability to purchase Naloxone over the counter would incentivize pharmacies to stock more of the drug. He says he has had several constituents approach him at Narcan trainings and opioid forums saying they had already used their Narcan kits and had to wait to get another prescription.
“The training is very easy and the worst thing that could happen to someone that maybe didn’t go through the training is that they would administer Naloxone not in the most effective manner, which obviously is not good. But what’s the alternative? The alternative is the person wouldn’t have access to this drug at all,” says Carlucci. “So that’s what I want to do, to get it into the hands of more and more people. California and Rhode Island have already done this.”
In an emailed statement, the state health department says it “shares Senator Carlucci’s commitment to ensuring that Naloxone is as widely available as possible. That availability must be accompanied by training to ensure that we have responders who are equipped and trained to save lives.”
Carlucci sits on the on the bipartisan Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction where Hudson Valley Republican Terrence Murphy is co-chair. Murphy says he is open to Carlucci’s idea down the road, but says certain training must come first.
“I would love to make sure that all first responders get Narcan-trained and we take this step forward,” says Murphy. “And then if there’s a possibility of getting it over the counter or getting it in the hands of the people that need to get it then, listen, I’m all in favor of whatever we need to do to make sure that this epidemic comes to an end.”
Meanwhile, Thursday night is the first of a series of forums around the state being held by the task force, this one in Murphy’s district in Westchester County. He says the forums are information-gathering missions.
“Well the purpose of the forum is to actually listen to our professionals and listen to the public figures out there and really to listen to some of the addicts that have gone through from the streets through rehab and back out and matriculated back into society,” Murphy says. “The idea is to, really, is to craft some incredibly strong legislation against the dealers.”
And, he says, close loopholes and help law enforcement more effectively take dealers off the street. Meanwhile, Carlucci says obtaining Narcan over the counter would be useful.
“A recent report from the World Health Organization showed that if by making Naloxone more accessible, we will absolutely save people’s lives,” says Carlucci.
Murphy, who from the outset of his first senate term said combatting the heroin epidemic was a priority, also wants to address the issue in terms of prevention, treatment, and recovery. And he says soon he plans to meet with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney to discuss how the federal government can help.