School nurses are being enlisted in the fight against opioid overdose. The maker of the overdose treatment drug Narcan Nasal Spray is offering a free supply of the antidote to all U.S. high schools, at a potential cost to the company of millions of dollars. Naloxone, the generic name of the drug, quickly reverses the effects of opioids like heroin and oxycodone, allowing an overdose victim to breathe.
A national survey in 2014 found that close to half a million 12- to 17-year-olds, or about 2 percent of adolescents, had abused painkillers.
Ariel Engelman is co-founder of the Naloxone and Overdose Prevention Education Program of Rhode Island, which has the highest rate of illicit drug use by teens in the country. Her group found that more than 18 percent of school nurses had to call 911 for a suspected overdose of a student in the past three years.
“Some nurses have even had to call 911 for a suspected overdose of a staff member, so this is something that is happening in the schools,” she said.
The National Association of School Nurses has teamed up with Narcan manufacturer Adapt Pharma to educate nurses and develop policies for schools that have the overdose antidote on hand.
“It’s saving a life, just like we would use EpiPen for a bee sting allergy,” said Beth Mattey, the school nurse association’s president.
If all 37,000 or so of the country’s high schools signed on, the cost of the program would exceed $2.7 million at Adapt Pharma’s discounted price of $75 per two-dose carton, but states have different laws concerning the distribution of medication to students.
Adapt Pharma spokesman Thom Duddy said the company had shipped approximately 1,800 doses to Pennsylvania and New Hampshire so far, with Kentucky planning to take part in the program when school resumes in the fall.
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