Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration is encouraging Pennsylvanians to review the expiration date of their prescription medications, including NARCAN, a brand of the lifesaving overdose-reversal drug naloxone. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the extension of the shelf life of NARCAN Nasal Spray from 24 months to 36 months.
“We are committed to ensuring that naloxone is widely available to help those with the disease of addiction,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Naloxone has one role, and that is to save someone who is suffering from an overdose. It is essential that every Pennsylvanian consider obtaining naloxone to help save a life.”
Since 2014, Dr. Levine has signed standing orders related to naloxone for the public, first responders and most recently a standing order for community organizations to distribute naloxone through mail order. Additionally, the Wolf Administration has sponsored two public giveaway events as part of Stop Overdose in Pennsylvania: Get Help Now week, where nearly 10,000 kits of naloxone were distributed.
“Naloxone has been a key component of battling the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. “The Wolf Administration has worked hard to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to naloxone, are trained to safely administer the drug and potentially save a life.”
Launched in November 2017, the Naloxone for First Responders Program provides NARCAN to priority first responder groups across the Commonwealth utilizing a network of Centralized Coordinating Entities (CCEs). Since inception, CCEs have distributed more than 67,000 kits of NARCAN to first responder groups, resulting in more than 15,463 reported overdose reversals to date.
“The news that the FDA has approved NARCAN’s shelf-life is most welcome, as it ensures that the naloxone that we have already distributed can be relied upon to combat overdoses for an additional year,” said Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Executive Director Michael Pennington.
The Opioid Command Center, established in January 2018 when Gov. Wolf signed the first opioid disaster declaration, continues to meet each week to discuss the opioid crisis. The command center is staffed by personnel from 17 state agencies, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs.
Earlier this month, the Opioid Command Center released its strategic plan, highlighting accomplishments to date and providing a roadmap for the continued work to help those with substance use disorder. The plan, available here, includes five goal areas: prevention, rescue, treatment, recovery and sustainability.
Efforts over the past several years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis.
- The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) has reduced opioid prescriptions by 34 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
- The number of people receiving high dosages of opioids (defined as greater than 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day) has dropped 53 percent since the PDMP launched in August 2016.
- The Opioid Data Dashboard and Data Dashboard 2.0 has provided public-facing data regarding prevention, rescue and treatment.
- 11 Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) programs are serving as part of a hub-and-spoke model to provide evidence-based treatment to people where they live, with just under $26 million dedicated into the centers.
- More than 45 Centers of Excellence (COE), administered by the Department of Human Services, provide coordinated, evidence-based treatment to people with an opioid use disorder covered by Medicaid. The COEs have treated more than 32,500 people since first launching in 2016.
- The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped more than 4,800 people, enabling easier entry into recovery programs.
- A standing order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine in 2018 allowed EMS to leave behind more than 2,400 doses of naloxone.
- Education has been provided to more than 6,600 prescribers through either online or face-to-face education.
- 882 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 178,540 pounds of unwanted drugs in 2019.
- The Get Help Now Hotline received more than 39,000 calls, with nearly half of all callers connected directly to a treatment provider.
- The state prison system has expanded their Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program which is viewed as a model program for other states.
- A body scanner pilot project was successful in reducing overdoses and violent crime in community correctional facilities. Body scanners are in place in more than 30 locations and are currently being expanded to additional facilities.
- Several agencies have worked together to collaborate on the seizure and destruction of illicit opioids across Pennsylvania.
- Education and training on opioids have been provided to schools. Future plans are in place to make opioid education a standard component of their school-based training.
- The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expand access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make care more affordable.
- Naloxone has been made available to first responders through the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, with more than 63,400 kits made available and close to 12,700 saves through that program. More than half of those saves, 6,633, occurred in 2019.
- EMS have administered close to 42,300 doses of naloxone and more than 10,000 doses were made available to members of the public during the state’s naloxone distribution last year.
More information on the opioid crisis can be found on the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov