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Alaska pharmacies begin offering lifesaving overdose drug without doctor’s prescription

By Daniella Rivera Photojournalist: Andy Nitchman & Emily Landeen - 7:04 AM December 8, 2016

It’s been a big year for naloxone — a drug that saves lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdoses — and now it’s easier to get than ever before. Alaska state law changed, allowing doctors to prescribe it to family members of drug users. Now, select pharmacies are qualified to dispense the drug without a doctor’s prescription.

It’s a milestone one Alaska mother has been fighting for.

“I have a daughter who’s an active addict and I would like everybody to know that while we’re working on our detox and recovery system, we need to save our children’s lives to give them a chance to change their life. They’re not bad people,” said Kim Whitaker, with the nonprofit group REAL About Addiction.

She hasn’t given up hope that her daughter can one day beat heroin addiction, but in the meantime, Whitaker never goes anywhere without naloxone, also known by its brand name, Narcan.

“I carry these all the time,” she said.

Geneva Woods Pharmacy is one of the first in Anchorage to be established as a Narcan-dispensing pharmacy. Matt Keith, vice president of pharmacy for Geneva Woods says the sooner it’s administered the better.

“You don’t have a lot of time from when you stop breathing to when you’re unresponsive or unable to be brought back or resuscitated,” he said. “And so having that immediately available is huge because even if it takes five minutes for an ambulance to get to your site, that could be five minutes too many.”

After calls to 20 plus pharmacies, KTVA only found two companies offering Narcan without a doctor’s prescription, Geneva Woods and the CVS Pharmacies in both of Anchorage’s Target stores.

Some insurance companies cover it, but the cash price ranges from $110 to $200.

Several pharmacies either didn’t know the new law had gone into effect, or didn’t know the requirements they needed to satisfy to dispense it themselves. After calls to the Alaska Board of Pharmacy, a spokesperson said the board updated their regulations online and will be notifying pharmacies of the changes in the near future.

Keith says the important thing to remember when someone is overdosing is to call 911. Whitaker added that means even if you’re doing drugs too; Alaska law protects you from being prosecuted if you make the call to get help.

KTVA 11’s Daniella Rivera can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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