Union Hospital’s Pharmacy is one of only a few locations in northeast Ohio to make the overdose reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription. This drug, also known as Narcan, can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug like heroin and prevent death.
Narcan has been used for many years by emergency medical professionals. When the nasal spray is given to the overdose victim, Narcan blocks the effect of the heroin on the brain and reverses the overdose.
“We decided to do this because it can save a life,” according to Pamela Swarny, Director of Pharmacy at Union Hospital in Dover. “If I had a child or other loved one that was addicted to heroin I would want to have this medication close by.”
Swarny says Narcan is available at the Union Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy in the hospital’s Main Lobby during its regular business hours, Monday through Friday 7 am to 7 pm and Saturday 7 am to 3 pm.
The medication is a nasal spray and is available without a prescription. It can be dispensed to a family member, friend, or other person in a position to assist somebody believed to be at risk of a heroin or opioid-related overdose. The expense can be billed to the requester’s health insurance. If purchased with cash, the cost currently is $84.73 but pharmaceutical prices change frequently.
In addition to the availability of the Narcan medication, Swarny is distributing a brochure entitled, “Overdose Recognition and Response Guide” to help people recognize an overdose, instructions to call 9-1-1 if overdose is suspected, and how to respond with the Narcan nasal spray.
Swarny says the drug Narcan has no potential for abuse. If given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. Narcan does not reverse overdoses caused by non-opioid drugs.
Swarny says the Ohio Department of Health terms it a drug overdose epidemic. “ODH says 13,000 Ohioans died of a drug overdose since 1999 and two-thirds of those overdoses involved an opioid, either prescribed or heroin.”
“Heroin is a major problem in Tuscarawas County, just as it is in every county in Ohio,” Swarny said. “Many local families live with an addicted person. Narcan isn’t a cure but it could prevent an overdose death, and that’s why we are making it available in our community.”