Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Baltimoreans who want to equip themselves with an antidote for fatal heroin and opioid overdoses can now walk right into their local pharmacy and pick up a naloxone kit, with no need for any further training or paperwork.

This morning, City Health Commissioner Leana Wen called a press conference at Fibus Drug Store in Southwest Baltimore to sign a standing order making the medication available over the counter in Baltimore City.

Thank you to all of our incredible partners citywide who are working tirelessly each day to save lives w/ #naloxone

— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) June 1, 2017

The order coincides with a new law taking effect today that says, in part, that Marylanders no longer need to fulfill training requirements to obtain naloxone (Narcan by brand name) from pharmacies. The General Assembly approved the measure, dubbed the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) Act, unanimously this past legislative session. That piece of the law eliminated what Wen has called “burdensome paperwork requirements” for obtaining the drug.

The legislation that took effect across the state had the same de facto effect, but Wen’s order establishes the new policy specifically for city.

Wen also announced Baltimore pharmacies will be required to carry educational literature about naloxone.

The drug has been a welcome success story in Baltimore’s war on opioids and heroin. Wen has touted it as a lifesaving solution for those critical moments after a drug user overdoses. Since she took the helm of the health department, the city has trained roughly 23,000 people to use it, to positive results. According to an op-ed by Wen that ran in The Daily Record (paywall) in March, everyday Baltimoreans – not including EMTs, nurses and doctors – saved more than 800 overdose victims’ lives in Baltimore last year using naloxone.

Maryland has suffered greatly from the scourge of opioids and heroin. State data shows overdose deaths, the bulk of which stemmed from heroin, opioid and fentanyl use, have climbed for the last five years and most of 2016. The Department of Mental Health and Hygiene recorded 1,468 accidental intoxication deaths through the first nine months of last year, compared to 465 in all of 2010.

At the announcement today, Dr. Wen and Del. Antonio Hayes, 40th District, offered a quick demo for how to administer the lifesaving drug.

#Naloxone is safe, effective, & easy to use to reverse an opioid overdose. Now anyone can obtain it at their pharmacy @CFAntonioHayes

— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) June 1, 2017

A video tutorial featuring Wen is available on the health department’s naloxone-promoting website, More information on local training resources is available here.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...