My Narcan Journey (Or How I Spent My Saturday Morning)

As the parent of a child with a serious substance abuse problem, I probably should have purchased Narcan a long time ago. Narcan, or Naloxone, is an antidote to opioid overdose. If administered soon after a person has overdosed on heroin or prescription painkillers (e.g., Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin), Narcan can save the person’s life.

By law, each municipality in Connecticut must have at least one EMS provider who is likely to arrive first on the scene of an overdose equipped with Narcan.  Public Act 17-131, Sec. 11. Equally importantly, Connecticut law now allows certain pharmacists who receive a special certification to dispense Narcan directly to customers who request it.  That includes parents, like myself, with children at risk of opioid overdose.

So last night, after long discussions with my wife and some medical professionals, I went to my local Walgreen’s pharmacy in Bishops Corner to get Narcan for our home.  “Sorry,” said the pharmacist working behind the counter.  “I’m not certified yet.  Perhaps you can come back tomorrow or try another pharmacy.” So I drove to a local CVS.  “Sorry, I’m not certified. Try back to tomorrow.”

This morning I woke up and started hitting some other pharmacies. (I’m a guy–I don’t make calls in advance to determine if the pharmacy has what I want. That would be like stopping to ask for directions.) One pharmacy after another gave me the same response I had received the previous evening.

Finally, at a CVS on New Britain Avenue in West Hartford, another pharmacist gave me the same answer. This time I responded, “If my daughter dies this weekend because I don’t have Narcan, I will make sure the Hartford Courant knows how helpful you have been.” This got the pharmacist’s attention. She started making phone calls and found a pharmacy in Hartford with a certified Narcan provider and a supply of Narcan. I thanked the pharmacist, drove to Hartford and picked up my Narcan.

The State of Connecticut has a webpage that lists all of the Narcan-prescribing pharmacies in the state. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have called pharmacies in advance, rather than driving from one to the other. Still, given the severity of the opioid problem in our state–indeed, the entire country–it should be much easier to get Narcan at your local pharmacy.

I propose the following amendment to the law: Every pharmacy in the state should be required to maintain a current list of all the Narcan-prescribing pharmacies in the state.  If a customer comes to a pharmacy seeking Narcan and the pharmacy doesn’t have it, an employee should be required to help the customer find the closest pharmacy with a supply of Narcan and a certified pharmacist who is presently working and can prescribe it. Parents shouldn’t have to beg, or threaten, to get help.

Perhaps the General Assembly should also reconsider the law requiring a pharmacist to have been “trained and certified by a program approved by the Commissioner of Consumer Protection.” Public Act 15-198, Section (b).  Ideally, every pharmacy should be required always to have someone working who can prescribe Narcan.

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