New Jersey’s naloxone giveaway distributes 32,000 doses of opioid-reversing drug

One hundred seventy-four pharmacies participated in what the state believed was the largest single-day U.S. public distribution of the opioid-reversing drug.

Naloxone, commonly known by its brand name, Narcan (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Naloxone, commonly known by its brand name, Narcan (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

New Jersey pharmacies distributed more than 32,000 doses of the opioid-reversing drug naloxone for free Tuesday as part of a one-day, statewide effort to combat the opioid crisis.

State officials said they believed it was the largest single-day public distribution of naloxone in the country.

Anthony Minniti, owner and pharmacist at Bell Pharmacy in Camden, said there was a steady stream of customers requesting the naloxone nasal spray, commonly known by its brand name Narcan.

“There was a range of reasons given, from individuals who have friends and family members who they were concerned about … to individuals who are themselves wrestling with addiction,” he said.

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“We did have one individual come in and request it because there was a graduation party coming up at her home for her son and she didn’t want to take any chances,” Minniti added.

People could obtain the drug anonymously and without a prescription.

The naloxone giveaway at 174 pharmacies was the state’s most recent effort to address the worsening opioid crisis. It spent $1.5 million to buy 40,000 doses of the drug and other materials for the event.

“We launched our free-naloxone-day initiative to give residents a lifesaving tool and the chance to save friends, loved ones, and community members,” said Carole Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Human Services. “Our goal is to save lives.”

According to New Jersey statistics, more than 3,000 Garden State residents died of drug overdoses in 2018.

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