For the first time in 13 years, the U.S. surgeon general has issued a public health advisory. The last notice, composed in 2005, centered around the risks of drinking during pregnancy.
The one issued by surgeon general Jerome Adams today urges the public to carry naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug.
“Naloxone is a safe antidote to a suspected overdose and, when given in time, can save a life. Research shows that when naloxone and overdose education are available to community members, overdose deaths decrease in those communities,” Adams wrote. “Therefore, increasing the availability and targeted distribution of naloxone is a critical component of our efforts to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths and, when combined with the availability of effective treatment, to ending the opioid epidemic.”
Narcan, the branded nasal spray formulation of naloxone sold by Adapt Pharma, is available at pharmacies across the country. Although most first responders carry Narcan, friends and family members of a person who has overdosed are more likely to arrive first at the scene.
Adams identified people who are misusing prescription opioids or heroin, as well as those who were recently discharged from opioid use disorder treatment, as having an elevated risk for an opioid overdose.
“Patients taking opioids as prescribed for long-term management of chronic pain, especially those with higher doses of prescription opioids or those taking prescription opioids along with alcohol or other sedating medications, such as benzodiazepines (anxiety or insomnia medications), are also at elevated risk for an overdose,” he noted.
Adams added that the government is working to ensure that the rising price of naloxone does not stop people from gaining access to it. The surgeon general is engaged in discussions with naloxone manufacturers, according to STAT, regarding the pricing of its products.
Also this week, FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb asked internet service providers and social media companies to crack down on illegal online sales of opioids.
“Although the sale of prescription opioids without a valid prescription is illegal, the FDA continues to see these products in the packages we inspect. And we find offers to purchase opioids all over social media and the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, and Bing,” Gottlieb said in prepared remarks.
The commissioner said that the FDA will soon host a meeting with executives from internet companies, as well as academics and advocates, to identify new ways to stop these illegal sales.