A pharmaceutical company with U.S. headquarters in Delaware County, Pennsylvania is offering free anti-overdose medication to high schools around the country.
The medicine naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose from drugs such as Vicodin or heroin. ADAPT Pharma in Radnor, Pennsylvania, sells the medicine under the brand name Narcan and is providing one nasal spray kit to every high school that asks for one.
“School nurses need to make sure that their state laws allow this, just because this is coming out does not necessarily mean that school nurses can give it in the school setting,” said nurse Beth Mattey, who works in North Wilmington, Delaware, and is president of the National Association of School Nurses
Permission is on the books in Delaware.
“Working with our department of health, our medical director has written the standing order so that Delaware school nurses can give the medication in an emergency,” Mattey said.
If a student is not responding and a drug overdose is suspected, Mattey said, a school nurse would make sure someone calls 911 for emergency services help, and then give the antidote.
“You would shake and shout, ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?’ What you will see in an opioid overdose is they may be breathing, but it’s very ineffective breathing,” Mattey said.
The signs of a drug overdose can also include blue lips or fingernails.
Pennsylvania Physician General Rachel Levine has issued a statewide standing order for naloxone, but school nurses may need sign-off at the county level.
“They really have to check with their school board,” said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Karen Murphy.
In a press statement, Murphy said, ”Opioid addiction is the most pressing health threat in Pennsylvania today, and the availability of naloxone is a critical component in our broad effort to address it.”
“Many states do not support this, and one of our initiatives is to go out and speak with governors, or mayors, or departments of education, and encourage them to make this available,” said Matt Ruth, chief commercial officer for ADAPT Pharma.
ADAPT Pharma is also offering lower-priced Narcan nasal spray kits to public interest groups.
Ruth said law enforcement agencies and other first responders can buy the medicine for about $38 for each device. The manufacturer’s list wholesale price is $125.
Naloxone is also sold by other companies in other forms, such as a take-home auto-injector under the brand name Evzio.
In Pennsylvania, if schools request a nasal spray kit, the Department of Health will collect those requests, and later distribute the medicine donated by the drugmaker.
The program includes a partnership with the National Association of School Nurses to provide education to nurses and students.