Easier Access to Overdose Prevention Drug Can Save Lives
Avera is using technology to offer access to a drug that can save lives in the face of the national opioid-abuse epidemic.
Using Avera’s virtual-visit application for smart phones, AveraNow, individuals can get education and electronic prescriptions for the drug, naloxone, which can be used in the case of an opioid overdose.
AveraNow allows anyone with a personal computer or smart phone to speak with a physician or advanced practice provider in real time. Those health care professionals can be reached any time of day, and this easy access should help people who need the drug, especially in rural settings where a pharmacy or doctor’s office could be miles or hours away.
Avera Medical Group family medicine physician Jason Knutson, DO, said using technology to provide access to the anti-overdose drug makes sense.
“Accessibility to naloxone can help save lives, and while the drug is not a cure, it can save the lives of individuals who face opioid overdose,” he said. “Offering access to the drug via AveraNow makes it easier for anyone – regardless of where they live – to gain access to this drug that can provide a level of safety.”
Avera and Hy-Vee pharmacies in South Dakota also provide naloxone without a prescription.
Knutson stressed that improving access to naloxone does not necessarily eliminate the threat of this national opioid epidemic. But if people can talk to a provider with ease, learn about the drug’s use and have it as a safety precaution, then AveraNow’s role adds significant value as a public safety tool.
“Naloxone buys a person time, and it can prevent deaths,” he said. “It provides a distinct safety mechanism in the case of an overdose, giving that person another chance. Without it, the outcome could be much less positive.”
Knutson mention that since naloxone has no serious adverse or dangerous effects if taken by someone who is not experiencing overdose, making it easier to access doesn’t increase risk of secondary problems. The drug can be prescribed in three forms, including a mechanical-injectable form similar to the Epi pen. That version is the most expensive, Knutson explained. The other forms, which include a nasal mist and a more traditional injectable form, cost less but may not be as easy to administer.
“Through the AveraNow visit, the doctor or provider will explain how the various methods of use differ,” he said. “They also will stress the fact that improved access to this drug is merely a step in the right direction in terms of preventing overdose deaths. That’s what this news is about – a step in the right direction, nothing more.”
AveraNow users are reminded that while the application is a free download, they must register as a user and will be charged $49 for the virtual visit where they receive the prescription.
“The AveraNow virtual visit can also help people with referral services in the case of an emergency, or in some cases, referral services to clinical behavioral health services that can aid individuals who may face addiction to these powerful drugs,” said Knutson. “Most of us carry smartphones in our pockets all day long. So we hope this ease of access will make AveraNow another tool in the fight against opioid use.”