One of the tentpoles in DuPage County’s effort to cut down the number of heroin overdose deaths recently got a little more validation on the national level.
On April 3, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription treatment called Evzio, which is a hand-held auto-injector that delivers the non-addictive medication naloxone.
Naloxone can reverse the symptoms of an opiod overdose, giving medical professionals the time needed to provide further treatment. Illinois passed a law in 2010 allowing nonmedical personnel to be trained to used the drug.
Recently, the DuPage County Health Department trained members of 23 area police departments to administer the drug via a nasal atomizer. Two lives were saved in March due to the program, according to the department.
Although the drug is being used in the county, it was still good news for those who have been championing its use, Coroner Richard Jorgensen said.
“We should have naloxone, and it should be extremely available to anybody who would feel they would have the need to use it,” he said.
Use of the drug has seen some pushback over the last several years, some saying that having access to the drug will enable opiate addicts to use without fear of overdose.
“The argument against that is that dying of an overdose is a really, really poor way to start your rehab treatment,” Jorgensen said. “That’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, but we need to have the ability to save people’s lives.”
Cookie Walter, owner and program director of Stonybrook Center rehab in Winfield, said that while it was a narrow approval, it added legitimacy to the drug’s use.
Stonybrook previously has worked with the local police department to provide and train officers in the use of the naloxone in both forms and provides it to family members of those at risk for an overdose.
Walter said that her organization found the auto-injector system less preferable because people are generally more comfortable using a nasal spray than a needle. Prices for the auto-injector also have been higher in her experience.
“We had a very difficult time obtaining the naloxone at a reasonable price – we didn’t have a grant, didn’t have government funding, so it came out of my pocket,” she said.
Jorgensen echoed her preference of the nasal spray, also adding that he hoped it would spur more availability.
“This is a drug that until a little while ago was very hard to get,” he said. “We need to have this become a shelf drug for the pharmacies and we need it to be available. Every one of these approvals is good for what we’re trying to do.”