While overdose totals have shown a slight decrease over recent years, the landscape of the drug market has taken a daunting turn with the outpour of fentanyl on city streets, encouraging national health officials to push for approval of over-the-counter overdose medications in hopes of saving more lives.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in conjunction with Whitman Walker medical center, held a recent press conference in honor of the agency’s “Overdose Prevention Strategy,” anniversary, celebrating national efforts to fight drug addiction and sharing goals for the future.
Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke of the urgency to provide overdose-reversing medications in the areas most disproportionately affected.
“The important piece that we need to understand [is] we are the most dynamic drug supply environment this nation and the world has ever faced, to the tune that we are losing an American every five minutes around the clock. This is largely preventable” said Dr. Gupta.
The chief medical correspondent said HHS is working to increase access to naloxone, or its brand name Narcan, which serves as an antidote when people are overdosing on opioids, and can be integral in combating fatalities.
“It’s critically important and I’m so glad that from President Biden on down, we are all committed to ensuring this is a priority for the nation to save people’s lives first and to help them get into treatment.”
Between March 2021 to March 2022, overdose rates reached roughly 100,000 lost lives across the country, as local opioid overdose rates have surpassed homicide rates for the year. Still today, barriers continue to exist in the height of the opioid epidemic as health agencies spot the desperate need of easy-reaching access to naloxone and narcan treatments for daily overdoses, similar to the easy availability of defibrillators for smoke alarms.
The FDA has recently put in a federal register notice to produce naloxone for over-the-counter availability. This register makes clear the requested processes needed to take place, while opening applications for companies who can mass produce the overdose-reversing medication, and widely distribute it.
Research and evidence-informed tools are providing better solutions to the crisis.
“At the end of the day, each one of our loved ones deserves the chance to survive, and strive,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra concluded during the press conference.