Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that New Jersey pharmacies without medical directors can now apply for a standing order to dispense the life-saving heroin antidote Narcan® without a prescription.
The Pharmacy Practice Act, amended in June by Gov. Christie as part of his continuing efforts to fight the heroin crisis, allows pharmacies without medical directors to get a standing order from the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) to dispense the antidote.
“This law is just one important tool in our comprehensive strategy in combating the disease of addiction,” said Christie. “Narcan is critical to our efforts to save lives and now we are making it easier for more pharmacists to help.”
Last week, the opioid epidemic was declared a national public health emergency by President Donald Trump.
Since April 2014, police, EMTs, and paramedics have administered Narcan more than 32,000 times, including 9,500 overdose reversals this year alone. In addition, thousands more reversals have been executed in hospital emergency rooms. The original law did not provide a mechanism for DOH to issue a standing order and allowed only pharmacists with medical directors to dispense Narcan, generically known as naloxone. Hundreds of pharmacies throughout the state do not have medical directors on staff.
DOH has finalized the standing order process and is now accepting requests from licensed pharmacists in good standing with the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy (BOP). Requests should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The standing order allows pharmacists to dispense the antidote to someone at risk of an overdose or to an individual who obtains the antidote to administer it to a loved one or someone in an emergency, regardless of whether they have a prescription for the antidote. The standing order requires the pharmacists to provide information about recognition and prevention as well as information about dosage, resuscitation and aftercare.
Narcan is administered, often through a nasal ingestion but sometimes through injection, throughout the state by police, EMTs, and paramedics and is dispensed to families through programs funded by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, now located in the DOH.
Christie also has expanded Recovery Coach and Patient Navigator programs that pair people whose overdose was reversed in a hospital with peers that can guide them through the steps of recovery.
“We have to look at every overdose reversal as an opportunity to get people into treatment,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “The administration of Narcan may return someone from near death, but we know sustained recovery requires more than just an antidote.”
This standing order will be reviewed periodically and updated if there are relevant developments in the law or science about opioid antidote administration.
Pharmacists dispensing the opioid antidote must maintain records as required by the BOP, which is in the process of issuing guidance for pharmacists who dispense the antidote.