VIDEO: Naloxone can save a life. Here’s what you need to know
In 2020, Regence made naloxone – a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose – more accessible to members by reducing cost barriers.
Opioid misuse remains a national public health crisis. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared it a public health emergency—and as recently as 2018-2019, HHS estimates that more than 130 people died every day from opioids. This is a complex, widespread crisis that requires leaders from all backgrounds to work together and find solutions to save lives. As a health plan serving 3.1 million people in our four states, our top priority is connecting Regence members to the care they need. This includes working to decrease opioid misuse while making sure patients who can benefit from opioid treatment have continued access.
At the beginning of this year, we made naloxone – a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose – more accessible to our members by reducing cost barriers. (Naloxone is also knowns as naloxone hydrochloride, NARCAN® or EVZIO®.) Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that when naloxone and overdose education are available, overdose deaths decrease in those communities.
Read on to learn more about this life-saving medication, as well as the signs and symptoms of an overdose, from our Clinical Pharmacist, Steve Lam.
What is naloxone?
Naloxone is an FDA-approved medication that can be used to rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by restoring normal respiration (breathing) to someone who has slowed or stopped breathing. There are a few different brands and forms of naloxone available, including nasal sprays and auto injectables that can be administered by others, and an injectable that requires professional training. Your doctor or pharmacist can counsel you on how to appropriately use naloxone.
What are the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose? How can I help someone who overdosed?
Typically an opioid overdose may include: slowed or stopped breathing, pinpoint pupils, loss of consciousness, clammy hands, pale face, blue nails or lips, vomiting or gurgling or the inability to speak. If you come across someone you suspect may have overdosed on opioids, try to first wake them up and immediately call 9-1-1. Then, administer naloxone if available. If the person does not wake up and has stopped breathing, you should do CPR, if you are trained, until help arrives.
When should I consider having naloxone on hand?
Naloxone is commonly prescribed to people who are on relatively high doses of opioids; those who are at high risk of overdosing; and caretakers who are at high risk of witnessing an overdose. Those who take other medications that can enhance opioid complications, such as benzodiazepines, or people with a history of substance use disorders, may also benefit from having naloxone on hand.
As a Regence member, how can I access naloxone?
We are responding to the opioid epidemic by making naloxone more accessible. At the beginning of this year, we launched our Naloxone Value List, a new benefit that allows members to get naloxone with no out-of-pocket cost or at a reduced cost-share, depending on their health plan. Regence members are encouraged to check their benefits online or call our customer service team to confirm related costs.
You should also speak with your doctor about your options and what’s most appropriate, both to protect yourself or a loved one. In many states, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah, naloxone (such as NARCAN® nasal spray) can be dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription. Your local pharmacist can confirm your state’s specific naloxone prescribing rules.
What else is Regence doing to address the opioid epidemic?
We remain committed to doing our part to decrease abuse, while also supporting appropriate use for people who need opioids to manage pain. Since 2015, we have reduced opioid prescriptions by 39 percent, far exceeding our original goal of reducing prescriptions 25 percent by 2020. We are continuing to strengthen our policies and clinical programs to support our members, their providers, pharmacists and the communities we serve.
Learn more about how Regence is pushing back against the opioid epidemic.