Order allows Utah pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription

Photo of naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids. The opioid overdose antidote, has become a vital tool in fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic.

SALT LAKE CITY — Pharmacists in Utah may now dispense the anti-overdose drug naloxone without a prior prescription, and the measure is the latest step in Utah’s efforts to curb the deadly effects of the opioid epidemic.

Jospeh Miner, executive director for the Utah Department of Health, signed a statewide standing order Thursday allowing pharmacists to dispense the drug, which is a safe and legal substance that can reverse heroin and opioid overdoses.

“Opioid overdose can be reversed and death prevented by timely administration of naloxone,” Miner stated in a press release. “As authorized by state law, this standing order is intended to increase access to naloxone for those who might be at risk of an overdose or who might be in a position to assist somebody at risk of an overdose.”

Naloxone can be given through a nasal spray (commonly known as Narcan®) or an intramuscular injection. The drug has no potential for abuse, and side effects are rare.

Six Utahns die each week from opioid overdoses, according to the health department. Utah ranks the fourth highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths.

Rep. Steve Eliason sponsored House Bill 240, the Opiate Overdose Response Act, which passed this year in the Utah Legislature.

The law authorized the Department of Commerce and Health Department to implement Thursday’s standing order. Other laws passed in recent years provide protections for bystanders who fear criminal prosecution for drug possession should they report an overdose.

“This important policy will save lives and give people’s sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, a second chance at life and hopefully help them step out of substance abuse once and for all,” Eliason stated.

The press release from the health department says pharmacies are not required to participate in the standing order, but participation is encouraged and pharmacies can voluntarily register with the UDOH. For more information about naloxone in Utah, click here.