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The Berks Opioid Coalition is comprised of representatives of key sectors of the Berks County community including law enforcement, healthcare/hospitals, pharmacies, emergency medical services, drug and alcohol treatment, coroner’s office, education, and businesses. Ultimately, this Coalition seeks to both decrease the human toll and the public burden of the far-reaching opioid epidemic.
As part of its strategic plan, the Coalition determined the need to assess the local availability of Naloxone, a medication that can reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug (i.e. prescription pain medication or heroin). Naloxone accessibility was simplified statewide in 2016 when Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Physician General, issued a standing order. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the order was “intended to ensure that residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who are at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, or who are family members, friends or other persons who are in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, are able to obtain Naloxone.”
The purpose of the Pharmacy Naloxone Awareness Survey was to determine whether Berks County pharmacies were aware of the standing order, whether the pharmacies stocked Naloxone, and whether the pharmacies billed insurance for the medication. Guidance in the development of the survey was provided by the University of Pittsburgh Technical Assistance Center. From October to December 2017, onsite surveys were conducted at a total of 43 pharmacies throughout Berks County including both chain stores and private businesses.
The survey results are as follows:
These survey findings clearly demonstrate that Naloxone is not uniformly accessible across Berks County. Therefore the recommendation of the Berks Opioid Coalition would be the development and implementation of a pharmacy education program focusing on improved Naloxone accessibility including the application of the Physician General’s standing order.