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Iowa pharmacies to give free naloxone in an effort to curb opioid crisis

Pharmacies across Iowa are giving away 2,000 kits of Narcan, an opioid antidote that helps temporarily reverse an overdos, Friday, June 29, for "Narcan Access Day." (Caroline Cummings)

Iowa pharmacies are slated to give away 2,000 free Narcan kits Friday in an effort to curb the swelling opioid crisis in the state.

The Iowa Department of Public Health , Iowa Board of Pharmacy and Iowa Pharmacy Association are sponsoring the free dispensing event statewide, dubbing it "Narcan Access Day," on June 29. 350 pharmacies in every pocket of the state are participating, each getting about 10 Narcan kits.

Narcan is a brand of naloxone, a prescription medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose in the event of an emergency while medical assistance is on its way.

But Narcan isn't cheap. The average cost is $140 to $150, said state Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, who is a pharmacist in Urbandale.

“It is life saving," Forbes said. "One of the barriers is just that cost alone."

The Iowa Department of Public Health bought 2,000 Narcan kits--each supplying two doses per package---with federal grant money. Forbes hopes that eliminating the cost Friday will make it more accessible to people who need it.

“Hopefully they’ll have it in their possession in case one of their family members or loved ones has an overdose of an opioid," Forbes said, who also noted people interested in getting the free naloxone will have to fill out a short form to demonstrate need.

In 2016, the Iowa legislature approved a law allowing Iowans to get naloxone without a prescription in an effort to hopefully save lives. Forbes says he's witnessed the positive effects of this change first hand.

“I sold a father a box of [Narcan] and within 30 days he came back into the pharmacy and told me he had to use it on his daughter. The EMT told him that’s probably what saved her life," Forbes said.

The Iowa legislature also passed a bill this year aimed at further curbing the crisis. Under the new law doctors will be required use the prescription monitoring program, which is used to monitor prescription drug use. It also requires prescriptions be submitted electronically in an effort to halt “doctor shopping" and the altering paper prescriptions.

The legislation, which passed in a sweeping bipartisan manner and was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds, establishes a "Good Samaritan" provision, protecting someone from potential drug charges if he or she seeks help in the case of an emergency, joining 40 other states that have similar laws.

Forbes says he is proud of the work he and his fellow lawmakers accomplished this year, but there is still more to do. He's hoping future General Assemblies can tackle the crisis further, like looking into medicated assisted treatment, which he believes to be effective.

"I think as legislators and policymakers, we need to do things to help protect the citizens of Iowa and I think this bill does that," Forbes said.

To see the full list of participating pharmacies, click here. Forbes encourages you to also call your local pharmacist, too, just to make sure it was not left off the list.

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