For one day this month, New Jersey residents will be able to walk into dozens of participating pharmacies across the state and obtain the overdose-reversing drug naloxone free of charge.
The June 18 event is the latest salvo in the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis in New Jersey, which saw more than 3,100 drug-overdose deaths in 2018.
Overdose-prevention advocates praised the move by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, saying the life-saving treatment for opioid overdoses needs to be more widely available.
“It’s fantastic,” said Diane Calello, medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center. “Anything that anyone can to do get naloxone into as many hands as possible is going to make a difference.”
Those taking advantage of the one-day offer will be able to get the drug anonymously as well as for free. An individual prescription is not required to get naloxone, often called by its brand name Narcan.
One dose per person will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Pharmacy staff will also distribute information on addiction treatment and recovery.
“Combating the opioid epidemic is an all-hands-on-deck challenge, and having naloxone available for individuals throughout our state to be able to assist friends and family is really an important part of that equation,” said Carole Johnson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
New Jersey, as well as other states including Pennsylvania, has a “standing order” that allows certain pharmacies to distribute naloxone without a prescription. Pharmacies still require people to pay for the drug, either out of pocket or through insurance coverage or Medicaid.
But a recent study from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found that pharmacies in larger, poorer cities across the state were less likely to have naloxone in stock.