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Naloxone free to U.S. High Schools

From U.S. News & World Report:

Coming to a High School Near You: Drugs that Reverse Heroin Overdoses

Naloxone will be offered for free to all U.S. high schools – but how many will accept?

A nasal spray that quickly reverses an overdose from heroin and prescription painkillers is being offered for free to high schools across the country.

The drugmaker, Adapt Pharma, made the announcement about the gift during a summit Monday held by the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative, which is collaborating on the project. They will be offering naloxone – known also by its brand name Narcan – to high schools through state departments of education.

The project could face some hurdles in being implemented, however. Many states don’t have rules in place that would allow high school staff to administer the drug in an emergency without facing liability from parents or guardians. Schools vary significantly by state and even by district in whether they allow staff to administer medication to students at all; in some cases, school districts limit the duty to school nurses, who often work at several different schools during a single week.

“It’s a fair point,” says Rain Henderson, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, about the availability of staff to dispense medications at schools. “We are pressed for human resources, but we have to start somewhere.” As schools see results, she says she believes more will be willing to participate.

In schools, painkiller and heroin overdoses are rare, but do occur. Overall drug overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014, driven mostly by the use of prescription painkillers and heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2010, deaths from heroin overdoses have more than tripled, increasing from 3,036 in 2010 to 10,574 in 2014. Numbers have been particularly concentrated among middle-aged whites, who are seeing increasing mortality rates in part attributable to this problem.

The National Association of School Nurses released a position paper in June supporting keeping naloxone in schools, and the Department of Health and Human Services has offered grants to help states pay for the drug and associated training. While naloxone is growing in overall use, it’s not part of general protocol or training for many first responders, including police officers and emergency medical technicians. Opponents to making naloxone more widely available have said they are concerned that people who abuse drugs will continue if they know naloxone is likely to be on hand to save their lives.

Some states already have robust overdose-prevention programs in schools. Rhode Island takes one of the most aggressive approaches, requiring naloxone to be stocked in all public middle, junior high and high schools. In Kentucky and New York, school employees are allowed to administer naloxone and be excused from liability. Delaware has endorsed expanded access in schools, and school nurses in Massachusetts have been trained to use naloxone.

Click here to view the entire NPR article.