Naloxone is an injectable drug that can reverse an opioid overdose in minutes.
“The difficulty we've always had is getting naloxone in the right hands, at the right time,” Dr. Donald Stader, chair of the Colorado Naloxone Project and an emergency and addiction medicine physician at Swedish Medical Center, said.
Dr. Stader sees it firsthand, the tragedy of opioid overdose deaths. More than 840,000 people have lost their lives to overdoses since 1999, according to stats by the Centers for Disease Control.
“Let’s figure out as soon as possible when people are at risk for overdose, and then let's give them those tools to actually mitigate these risks and save lives,” Dr. Stader said.
One of those tools is naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose in an emergency situation.
“Maybe around 2013, 2014 we really started to see it become much more prevalent,” Dr. Joshua Lynch, DO, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo, said.
He sees naloxone becoming more and more accessible.
“In areas where naloxone is more publicly accessible, we definitely have seen a decrease in overdose deaths,” Dr. Lynch said.
A national study found that opioid overdose deaths decreased by 14 percent in states where naloxone laws were enacted, according to information cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“There's a wide range of naloxone-related legislation that's gone on in different states,” Dr. Lynch said.
And that’s why Dr. Stader’s Colorado Naloxone Project will soon become The Naloxone Project, serving states across the U.S.
"Different hospitals in different states from across the country have reached out to us,” he said. "Those states include Virginia, include Wisconsin, include Hawaii, include Florida.”
The purpose is accessibility. One of the main goals is to make naloxone available in every emergency department.
“What we hope that does is set the framework for naloxone dispensing to be a reimbursed, sustainable part of our medical system,” Dr. Stader said.
Right now, the project is grant funded. Naloxone is free for patients. Dr. Stader hopes for a more sustainable solution involving laws around insurance coverage and payers in the future.
In the first year of the project, more than 100 hospitals joined the project.
“Those hospitals in the last 10 months have already dispensed around 3,300 plus doses directly into patients hands,” Dr. Stader said.
The hope is that this becomes common across the U.S. and naloxone is available to everyone who may one day need it, before they leave through hospital doors.