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In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a years-long opioid epidemic, the injectable version of the life-saving overdose reversal drug Naloxone is in short supply nationally and in Pennsylvania, state health officials have told the Capital-Star.
Naloxone, an injectable, intramuscular drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the rapid reversal of opioid overdoses, has been in scant supply since Pfizer, the drug’s maker, ran into manufacturing issues in 2020, causing the price of the Naloxone to soar even as demand for the drug increased during pandemic-fueled shutdowns, The Guardian reported earlier this month.
Pennsylvania recorded more than 5,000 overdose deaths in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Jan. 1, 2018 to Oct. 9, 2021, emergency medical services in Pennsylvania administered 62,974 doses of the overdose-reversal drug, according to state health data.
As of Oct. 25, 2021, Pennsylvania criminal justice entities, including the Pennsylvania State Police, have administered 586 doses of Naloxone so far in 2021, compared to 727 in all of 2020, according to Overdose Information Network data.
The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs said the shortage of injectable Naloxone has meant its community partners have increasingly had to rely on other variations of the drug to continue their work.
“State agencies have heard from partners such as Prevention Point Pittsburgh and Prevention Point Philadelphia that the shortage of Intramuscular naloxone has created an increased reliance on intranasal Narcan, which is supplied by PCCD (Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency) via DDAP, to fill the gap,” agency spokesperson Alison Gantz told the Capital-Star.
But the nationwide injectable naloxone shortage hasn’t affected Pennsylvania’s Narcan supply, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which told the Capital-Star that Narcan remains “widely available” in the commonwealth as part of acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson’s standing order for Pennsylvanians to be able to access Naloxone amid the ongoing opioid epidemic.
“As naloxone is a medication for residents who are experiencing an opioid-related overdose – having access to this life-saving tool is essential to combat the rising number of overdoses across Pennsylvania,” Health Department Spokesperson Maggi Barton said.
Gantz added that despite the nationwide injectable Naloxone shortage, DDAP has been able to supply Narcan through its regular distribution channels.
“Since the shortage is specific to the Intramuscular (injectable) version of naloxone, not the nasal spray/Narcan®, there has not been an impact on our ability to purchase or distribute Narcan® through the program,” Gantz said.
In light of the shortage, DDAP is urging Pennsylvanians who need access to naloxone to request it from County/Regional Centralized Coordinating Entities (CCE).
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