Unique distribution strategies to combat opioid epidemic

When does the average person receive situational medication? Do most people proactively prepare for the worst or do they wait until they are sick to go to the hospital or pharmacy? Most will probably say the latter. However, for a young child in anaphylactic shock or a drug addict experiencing an opioid overdose, time to treatment is of the essence. Fortunately, there are medications that can instantly combat the effects of these medical emergencies and provide patients the needed time to receive further medical attention.

Opioid abuse and overdose is a national epidemic with drug overdose deaths reaching an alarming all-time high in 2014. During this time, there were 47,055 lethal opioid overdoses, more than 40% of which were related to prescription pain relievers. The potentially life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication commonly known as naloxone, is available in more than 24 states without a prescription. But, as we know, there are those who may be less inclined to prepare for such an occurrence, and therefore might not receive the drug in time.

Narcan (naloxone) Nasal Spray blocks the effects of opioids for 30-90 minutes, reversing respiratory depression that may otherwise lead to death from overdose. Narcan Nasal Spray was designed so that any person, whether medically trained or not, would be able to act quickly when a life is at stake due to an opioid-related overdose.

First responders, school systems, harm reduction groups and substance abuse clinics are among the organizations that should have ready access to this medication, as they are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, many of these groups and their facilities are usually not armed with naloxone, preventing them from responding when seconds count. To address this gap in naloxone access, a partnership was formed between Adapt Pharma, Smith Medical Partners, and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. The program focuses on the availability and accessibility of Narcan in the event of an opioid overdose. It is important to note that the community at large, including schools and local law enforcement, needs to take further steps to provide support to individuals after the use of naloxone to prevent the likelihood of another overdose, as naloxone does not cure addiction or prevent future overdoses from occurring.

Ensuring medication is in the right hands at the right time is crucial. Thus, anticipating and preparing to respond to situations where a prescription drug, heroin or fentanyl overdose may occur is key. At Smith Medical Partners, we have aligned our specialty distribution offerings with Adapt Pharma to make available and distribute a free carton of Narcan to each high school in the United States, as well as support education efforts concerning opioid overdose through the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. As a specialty distributor, we are uniquely positioned to step outside the traditional healthcare distribution channels to provide this medication to those on the front lines of the epidemic, such as high school nurses.

This is not the first time single-use, emergency medications have been incorporated as an integral part of the school nurses’ toolkit. Six years ago, Smith Medical Partners, Bioridge Pharma, and Mylan Pharmaceuticals formed an alliance to make epinephine available in all schools through the EpiPen4Schools program and has found tremendous success. Just as an EpiPen can thwart anaphylaxis, Narcan helps to do the same with an opioid overdose. Too often, we neglect the impact drug addiction and overdose has on our communities. As a subsidiary of pharmaceutical wholesaler H. D. Smith, Smith Medical Partners has a strong history of commitment to the communities we serve. We stand by our mission of forming innovative partnerships such as these and strive to put the necessary medicines in the hands of those who can ultimately save lives. Since the start of this partnership, Smith Medical Partners has distributed Narcan to more than 1,000 high schools in states including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Tennessee.

Treating addiction and preventing overdose deaths have become a priority in the United States. By putting this potentially life-saving drug in our high schools, we are proudly providing communities with the tools that will equip them in the case of opioid-related overdose. At Smith Medical Partners, if we can save one life, curtail an overdose, stop an allergic reaction, and make our community a better, safer, place, then we are committed to doing so.

About the Author

Bob Rash is Vice President of Smith Medical Partners, a wholly owned subsidiary of H. D. Smith. During his tenure at Smith Medical Partners, he has led the company to substantial growth and expansion of its specialty distribution and third party logistics business. Prior to Smith Medical Partners, Rash launched Health Market International, a software and consulting company, providing services in 20 countries. His international experience with health systems provides a broad perspective on business development and operations in the pharmaceutical industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the College of William and Mary and a master’s in management from George Washington University.