Analysis of increased public access to naloxone as a method to control the recent fentanyl epidemic
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The opioid fentanyl is becoming an increasingly popular drug of abuse across the United States. With a potency up to 100 times greater than the common opioid morphine, fentanyl use can easily lead to overdoses. This is especially true as fentanyl is increasingly found mixed into other illicit drugs without users’ knowledge. However, there exists an antidote for opioid overdoses called naloxone. Naloxone is a pure antagonist at μ-opioid receptors in the brain and produces little known side-effects. Recently, the FDA has approved naloxone delivery devices designed for individuals without medical training, making naloxone layperson friendly. Under today’s policy, naloxone is a prescription medication. This means physicians must write a prescription for take-home naloxone or issue a standing order allowing other healthcare professionals to distribute naloxone. However, there are little federal laws governing naloxone as most of the statutes discussing naloxone access and administration are determined by individual states. For example, only some states allow physicians to prescribe naloxone to non-patients. Additionally, many states have differing laws regarding criminal liabilities for physicians who prescribe the drug and for laypersons who administer the drug. In the U.S. there exists a dilemma with naloxone, as topics ranging from public policy to insurance coverage are controversial. With increasing information on fentanyl and naloxone being published, the U.S. is currently looking into the idea of making naloxone more accessible as a way to reduce overdose deaths.
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