One of the most important tools in the battle against the opioid epidemic that is ravaging the State of Maryland is naloxone. Naloxone, which is known commonly as Narcan, is an overdose reversal medication that, when administered, reverses the depressive effect that opioids have on the nervous and respiratory systems. The drug has saved thousands of lives in the state – and at least 1,600 lives since it was made available over-the-counter, without a prescription.
A bill introduced in the Maryland legislature would limit the access of individuals to Narcan by requiring anyone who receives more than three taxpayer-funded doses of Narcan to reverse an overdose to either seek treatment from a qualified facility for their addiction or repay the state for the cost of the Narcan administered. The argument advanced by the bill’s sponsor is that the widespread availability of Narcan and its free administration, without question, simply encourages opioid abusers to continue abusing.
The opioid epidemic is applying incredible pressure upon state and local budgets as they try to tackle the problem while providing medical access and care. Funding, however, is limited and many governments are working to identify methods for reducing the costs. “Some states have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers under certain product liability theories; that the companies negligently advertised and pushed for the consumption of these opioids to treat a plethora of conditions that could have been treated just as well with over-the-counter pain medications,” said a Products Liability Attorney with the law firm of Price Benowitz, LLP in Washington, D.C.
Narcan, however, has proven to be useful not only treating and reversing overdoses but also in limiting abuse due to the fact that it can allow orally-administered opioids to be absorbed by the body, but by blocking any injected opioids from being absorbed. Limiting the access of the most vulnerable to Narcan will likely do very little to improve overall outcomes. The issue must be addressed comprehensively, with increased funding for addiction treatment, continued access to overdose reversal medications, and litigation against those companies that abused the public trust and contributed to the opioid epidemic through false advertising and misrepresentations of the drug’s effects.
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