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SAN FRANCISCO— The Drug Policy Alliance is applauding CVS/pharmacy for being the first chain pharmacy in California to stock and sell the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone without a prescription. More than 50 CVS/pharmacy stores in California will make the lifesaving drug available to friends and family members of people at risk of an opiate overdose. This new program is a direct result of the passage of Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s AB 1535, which was co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Pharmacists Association. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014. The full list of participating pharmacies can be found at www.naloxoneCA.org.

Some overdose prevention advocates are cheering how quickly California medical and pharmacy professionals, as well as CVS/pharmacy, worked to fully implement the law. “The fact that just one year ago the bill was signed, and now today we’re seeing CVS stores all across California beginning to sell naloxone without a prescription is a testament to how hard many, many people worked behind the scenes to make this happen so fast,” said Laura Thomas, California deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It can sometimes take years for laws to be fully implemented due to myriad levels of bureaucracy, but in the case of pharmacy naloxone, everyone worked together from the very beginning with cooperation and excitement to do something great for California families,” she added.

“Expanding access to naloxone without a prescription is an important way that pharmacies can help save lives while also combating the nationwide epidemic of drug abuse, and we are committed to partnering with states such as California to make this possible,” said Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS Health. “We are pleased to expand the availability of non-prescription naloxone in our California pharmacies. We want to thank the Drug Policy Alliance, the California Pharmacists Association and other state health advocates for their hard work to make this possible.”

Accidental drug overdose continues to be the leading cause of accidental death in California, causing more deaths than motor vehicle accidents. Over 44,000 people die of accidental drug overdose every year in the United States and the number of deaths has doubled since 1999. Most of those deaths are from opiates, including prescription pain medications and illicit opiates such as heroin. Naloxone is a very safe and effective antidote to opiate overdose. Advocates such as the Drug Policy Alliance are working to ensure that people who use drugs and their family members have access to naloxone to reverse potential overdoses.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for years,” said Denise Cullen, an Orange County mom who lost her son Jeff to a heroin overdose. “Dozens of moms and dads who lost kids to overdose worked to get the pharmacy naloxone bill passed. We know better than anyone that having access to that important drug can literally be the difference between life and death for our kids. This is a hugely significant day for all of us. We hope many more chain pharmacies will now come on board and make naloxone available to even more parents across the state,” said Cullen.

Date Published: September 23, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance