Naloxone hydrochloride will now be available upon request at California pharmacies.
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill (AB 1535) drafted by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) on Sept. 15. The law will become effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Previously, naloxone was only available by prescription from health care providers or from a few naloxone distribution programs in the state. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has published research affirming the safety and efficacy of laypersons administering naloxone.1
Naloxone was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1971. Naloxone will retain its FDA status as a prescription drug and be kept behind the pharmacy counter.
“AB 1535 will have an immediate impact on reducing overdose deaths in California and will empower families throughout the state to access this lifesaving drug,” Assemblyman Bloom said. “The bill has received overwhelming support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. [Now] I am encouraged to seek out additional innovative policies aimed at ending our drug-overdose crisis.”
Under the new law, pharmacists can furnish the drug to individuals who may be in contact with a person at risk of an opiate overdose or to the patient requesting it, pursuant to guidelines to be developed by the state’s boards of pharmacy and medicine.
The Drug Policy Alliance strongly encourages physicians to coprescribe naloxone when appropriate (for patients on high-dose, long-term opiate pain reliever therapy, for example).
Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, said expanding pharmacy access to naloxone in California reflects the national movement to make naloxone more widely available. In Washington, Rhode Island, and New Mexico, naloxone is becoming increasingly accessible to patients without a prescription and via collaborative practice agreements between pharmacists and physicians. New York and Vermont recently passed similar legislation.
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Pennsylvania.