Sunday December 8, 2019

Prescriptions of Overdose-Reversing Drug Naloxone Soaring

The United States is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history

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Prescriptions, Drug, Naloxone
FILE - A Narcan nasal device lies on a counter as a health educator gives instructions on how to administer it, Brooklyn, New York, July 3, 2018. VOA

Prescriptions of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone are soaring, and experts say that could be a reason overdose deaths have stopped rising for the first time in nearly three decades.

The number of naloxone prescriptions dispensed by U.S. retail pharmacies doubled from 2017 to last year, rising from 271,000 to 557,000, health officials reported Tuesday.

The United States is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history. About 68,000 people died of overdoses last year, according to preliminary government statistics reported last month, a drop from the more than 70,000 in 2017.

“One could only hope that this extraordinary increase in prescribing of naloxone is contributing to that stabilization or even decline of the crisis,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University drug abuse expert.

Prescriptions, Drug, Naloxone
Prescriptions of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone are soaring, and experts say that could be a reason overdose deaths have stopped rising for the first time. Pixabay

About two-thirds of U.S. overdose deaths involve some kind of opioid, a class of drugs that includes heroin, certain prescription painkillers and illicit fentanyl. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, restoring breathing and bringing someone back to consciousness. It first went on sale in 1971 as an injection. An easier-to-use nasal spray version, Narcan, was approved in 2015.

Local, state and federal officials have embraced naloxone as a lifesaving measure. Cities and states have standing orders that allow pharmacies to give it out without a doctor’s prescription, and officials have tried to put it into the hands of virtually anyone who might encounter a person overdosing, including drug users, police and even librarians.

CDC researchers noted there were fewer than 1,300 naloxone prescriptions dispensed in 2012, meaning the number grew morethan 430-fold in six years.

Health officials said pharmacies should be giving out even more.

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“We don’t think anybody is at the level we’d like to see them,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC report is based on data from IQVIA, a company that tracks health care information, and looked at prescriptions from more than 50,000 retail pharmacies across the country. It included both prescriptions written by doctors for specific patients and those filled under the broader standing orders.

The report offers only a partial picture, however, since only about 20% of naloxone was sold to retail pharmacies in 2017, according to an earlier government report.

Still, it’s the CDC’s first close look at where most retail dispensing is happening. The agency provided data for about 2,900 of the nation’s 3,100 counties and parishes.

Prescriptions, Drug, Naloxone
The number of naloxone prescriptions dispensed by U.S. retail pharmacies doubled from 2017 to last year, rising from 271,000 to 557,000, health officials reported Tuesday. Pixabay

The researchers found it was most common in cities, and in the South.

Experts said the findings likely reflect a number of factors. More naloxone is likely prescribed in places where more people are using opioids and where policies increase access.

Of the 30 counties with the highest rate of naloxone dispensing in 2018, 13 were in Virginia and five were in Kentucky. But the highest naloxone dispensing rate was in Marshall County, Indiana, according to the CDC data.

The CDC recommends that naloxone be prescribed to patients who are getting high-dose opioids and are at risk for an overdose. It noted that only one naloxone prescription is written for every 69 high-dose opioid prescriptions.

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Another finding: The number of high-dose opioid prescription painkillers dispensed fell to about 38 million last year, from nearly 49 million the year before.

That likely also contributed to the decline in overdose deaths last year, Schuchat said. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s How Proper Sleep Can Help in Reducing Suicidal Thoughts

The frequency and intensity of disturbing dreams or nightmares, also a factor in insomnia-associated suicide

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Suicidal Thoughts
The sleep aid given to people is most effective in reducing Suicidal Thoughts in patients with the most severe insomnia. Pixabay

 Insomnia is a driver of suicide, and people with severe insomnia may safely benefit from taking a sedative to help address their sleep problems as it reduces their Suicidal Thoughts, a new study suggests.

The study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, included 103 participants aged 18 to 65 with major depressive disorder, insomnia and suicidal thoughts.

All participants took an antidepressant for the eight-week duration of the trial and half also took the sedative-hypnotic zolpidem at bedtime.

“While the results do not argue for the routine prescription of hypnotics for mitigating suicidal ideation in all depressed outpatients with insomnia, they suggest that co-presciption of a hypnotic during initiation of an antidepressant may be beneficial in suicidal outpatients, especially in patients with severe insomnia,” said study researchers from Augusta University in the US.

During the study, participants completed regular self-reports of the severity of their insomnia and completed a daily sleep diary during their treatment that included details like how many times they woke up during the night and how long they actually slept.

Researchers also measured distorted thoughts about sleep, like participants thinking they would never again have a good night’s sleep.

The frequency and intensity of disturbing dreams or nightmares, also a factor in insomnia-associated suicide, also were measured.

Patients wore a wrist device to keep up with rest/activity cycles.

Those taking the sleep aid showed both significant immediate and longer-term improvement in their reported insomnia severity.

Suicidal Thoughts
Insomnia is a driver of suicide, and people with severe insomnia may safely benefit from taking a sedative to help address their sleep problems as it reduces their Suicidal Thoughts. Pixabay

While both groups reported significant improvement in their feelings about hopelessness, quality of life, nightmares and dysfunctional beliefs about sleep, as well as related insomnia and suicidality, the group taking the sleep aid had a greater reduction in suicidal thinking.

The sleep aid was most effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with the most severe insomnia.

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There were no deaths or suicide attempts by participants during the course of the study.

Two weeks after the study concluded both study groups — including those not taking the sleep aid — appeared to have maintained progress with reduced depression scores and suicidal thoughts. (IANS)