The opioid crisis in the U.S.
While the country is in a well-known battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also fighting a lesser-publicized, but surging opioid crisis. According to the American Medical Association, the U.S. is seeing an increase in opioid and other drug-related overdoses with more than 40 states reporting increases in opioid-related mortality amid the pandemic.
Further, the CDC finds that drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. With more than two-thirds of those deaths involving a prescription or illegal opioid. As the country looks for ways to quell this uptick, colleges and universities need to take note as young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are the biggest users of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
By removing financial barriers to accessing naloxone, Wellfleet is aiming to help reduce opioid-related overdose deaths. “While we can’t completely prevent substance abuse,” said Drew DiGiorgio, President and CEO of Wellfleet, “we can provide students with a means to help save the life of a friend, fellow student, family member, or themselves.”
That’s why Wellfleet will provide its student members with access to one dose per year of generic naloxone injectables and Narcan® nasal spray at no cost. At-risk students who are enrolled in Wellfleet’s student-focused pharmacy solution, Wellfleet Rx, should discuss with their health care provider whether obtaining a prescription to these life-saving medications would be appropriate.
Although Narcan® is a preferred brand medication, it could cost upward of $50 to members. By adding it to the $0 drug list under its proprietary student formulary, Wellfleet is empowering students to be able to take action and help those in their campus community.
Who should carry naloxone?
According to the U.S. Attorney General, it’s good for any adult to have in the event someone needs the assistance, but it is more helpful for:
- Patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain
- Individuals misusing prescription opioids
- Individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl
- Health care practitioners
- Family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder
Further, research shows that overdose related deaths decrease in communities where naloxone and overdose education are available to community members.
Providing access is easy and can help save lives
Even though first responders typically carry this medication, it’s often friends, family or bystanders that find the individual experiencing an opioid overdose. So, having quick access to this medication and administering it can help provide valuable time for the person impacted to get to a hospital for more advanced care. Fortunately, according to the manufacturer, administering the medication is an uncomplicated process that requires little training.
Concerns about administering Narcan®
A common concern among those unfamiliar with the medication is “What will happen if they give Narcan® to someone who hasn’t overdosed?” Fortunately, “nothing bad or adverse is going to happen,” according to Wellfleet Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Barrie Baker. She adds, “Naloxone is a targeted medication that reverses the effect of opioids, like heroin or prescription painkillers. So, if the person doesn’t have any of those in their body, there’s nothing for it to react to.”
Other concerns center around liability from administering naloxone or notifying authorities of an overdose for fear of prosecution for possession of controlled substances or paraphernalia. Fortunately, there are no negative side effects of the medication. Plus, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted Good Samaritan laws that give broad liability protection for naloxone, which should limit or eliminate liability risks for students. Though the laws vary by state, they offer protections for the sole purpose of encouraging people to help those in need when time is of the essence.
Wellfleet Rx provides ways to prevent opioid abuse and misuse
This effort is another way that Wellfleet is empowering students. “We’re seeing the national opioid crisis reaching college campuses across the country,” said Jennifer Stevens, Director of Pharmacy at Wellfleet. “We’ve taken measures by working with our pharmacy providers to ensure the safe and appropriate use of opioid prescriptions. However, we needed to take it a step further and provide simple, affordable access to this life-saving medication.”
The Wellfleet Rx Student Formulary includes a number of formulary controls to prevent opioid abuse and misuse. Examples include limiting initial supplies of opioids to five days, limiting the number of units per day, and requiring prior authorization if more than a 10-day supply of opioids is requested within 60 days.
There are point-of-sale interventions that halt requests for medications that exceed high morphine milliequivalent dosing thresholds across multiple prescriptions. This enables further pharmacy and prescriber review to consider potentially safer alternatives or lower doses. These guidelines are based on CDC recommendations and model state regulations.
Learn more about the industry’s only student-focused formulary and how it can benefit your clients.