“No way! I’m not an addict!” That’s what many patients offered naloxone by their Physician Partners of America doctors say when offered the fast-acting opioid antidote along with a prescription for pain killers. Despite being legitimately prescribed opioids for chronic pain, these patients feel stigmatized, even insulted, by the idea they could overdose.
This week, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that encouraged more people to routinely carry naloxone: “We should think of naloxone like an EpiPen or CPR,” he announced April 5. “Unfortunately, over half of the overdoses that are occurring are occurring in homes, so we want everyone to be armed to respond.”
PPOA has written prescriptions for naloxone with every opioid prescription since 2004. Even though the medication can be free or low-cost with insurance, PPOA has discovered many patients refuse prescriptions for the antidote when they pick up their pain medication prescription.
“They feel they don’t need it. As pharmacists, we try our best to stress the importance of having naloxone in the home while on opiate therapy,” said Samantha Dangler, vice president of Operations – Ancillary Division for Physician Partners of America. “With the opioid crisis at an all-time high, it is imperative that when a physician writes a prescription for an opiate and an antidote, that the patient follows through and fills the prescription for the antidote.”
While the company’s pain management providers focus on interventional – that is, non-medication – modalities to treat debilitating chronic pain, some patients come to its practices already on the drug. For those patients, naloxone medications, such as Narcan, Evzio and Naltrexone, are highly recommended until they can be weaned off the opiate.
Emergency rescue workers, police and other agencies have carried the antidote for a while. But many overdoses occur in the home. The risk of accidental overdose, even by compliant patients, is high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 46 people die every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids and more than 40% of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription.
Read the Surgeon General’s full announcement.