Biden administration announces focus on ‘flooding the zone’ with life-saving overdose reversal medicine

Biden administration announces focus on ‘flooding the zone’ with life-saving overdose reversal medicine - Domestic News - News

The Biden Administration’s Nationwide Initiative to Expand Access and Training for Opioid Overdose Reversal Medications

The Biden administration launched an ambitious new initiative on Wednesday, dubbed the Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose. This nationwide call to action aims to increase training and access to life-saving opioid overdose reversal medications, such as naloxone.

Naloxone, a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, is easily administered in its nasal spray form by individuals without any medical expertise or extensive training. In March 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an over-the-counter Narcan spray, making it widely accessible to the public without a prescription. In addition, the first generic nonprescription nasal spray was approved in July 2023. These developments have made it easier for people to obtain naloxone at pharmacies, grocery stores, and even vending machines.

White House Domestic Policy Adviser Neera Tanden emphasized the administration’s commitment to addressing the opioid crisis, which is a top priority. The Biden administration has invested over $100 billion to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs and expand access to drug treatment programs. Through the State Opioid Response grant program, the federal government has delivered nearly 10 million free naloxone kits across the country, preventing over 600,000 potential overdose deaths.

However, despite its availability, some public health officials acknowledge that naloxone can be difficult to find and afford for some individuals. To address this issue, the Biden administration is calling on private companies and organizations across all sectors to commit to increasing training on how to use opioid overdose medications, keeping naloxone in first aid and emergency kits, and distributing the medication to employees and customers.

The administration’s fact sheet states, “Today, we’re calling on organizations and businesses – big and small, public and private – across the country to help ensure all communities are ready to use this life-saving tool to reduce opioid deaths.”

Leading organizations have already taken action. Ryan Companies, a commercial real estate company, has promised to distribute naloxone and provide overdose response training to its nearly 2,000 employees. The American Library Association is providing libraries with resources, including overdose response training and supporting the distribution of naloxone and overdose aid kits to the public. Southwest Airlines has stocked naloxone in emergency medical kits on 65% of its planes and plans to have it on all planes by the end of the year. The Los Angeles Unified School District has put naloxone in all K-12 schools, adult and early education centers.

The administration views this initiative as a crucial component of its broader agenda to combat the opioid crisis. Although the number of overdose deaths in the US has held steady recently, it remains significantly higher than other high-income countries. Almost half of adults in the US personally know someone who died from a drug overdose.

Overdose deaths spiked 30% between 2019 and 2020, with an additional 15% increase between 2020 and 2021. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were responsible for the majority of these deaths. Provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that 2023 could be another devastating year, with more than 111,000 drug overdose deaths in the first nine months. The administration is committed to strengthening access to medications that reverse opioid overdoses, such as naloxone.