LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas pharmacists can now dispense an overdose antidote drug without a prescription, state officials said Wednesday as they announced guidelines had been finalized for carrying out a new law that’s aimed at reducing opioid-related deaths in the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other officials announced the state would issue the protocol to the state’s 3,400 licensed pharmacists for making the drug naloxone more widely available around the state. A law enacted earlier this year allows licensed pharmacists to order, dispense and administer naloxone without a prescription as therapy. Naloxone is delivered via injection or nasal spray and is used to block or reverse an opioid overdose.

“This is a dramatic change. It goes live today,” Hutchinson, a former administrator of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said at a news conference at the state Capitol.

The guidelines allow pharmacists to dispense the drug without a prescription to someone at increased risk of an opioid overdose, or a family member, friend or other person who can assist. It also allows the drug to be dispensed to law enforcement and first responders without a prescription. The protocol lists Nate Smith, director of the state Department of Health, as the prescriber of record for the drug.

The number of drug overdose deaths in Arkansas rose from 287 in 2015 to 335 in 2016, according to numbers from the state Crime Lab.

Arkansas State Police and other law enforcement agencies have been carrying naloxone and were trained on how to administer the drug. State Drug Director Kirk Lane said police across the state had saved 12 people from overdose deaths using the medicine since December.

“It allows people to breathe during an overdose situation. It’s a temporary fix, but it allows them to breathe and seek medical attention in that effort,” Lane said.

John Clay Kirtley, executive director of the state Board of Pharmacy, said there are several national companies that have been waiting to be able to dispense naloxone in Arkansas without a prescription and predicted some pharmacies would be able to provide the drug within a week. The protocol would not restrict sales of the drug to people from out-of-state, he said.

“It basically removes the barriers of qualification so it is directly available to the public,” Kirtley said.


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