TIME's Maia Szalavitz reports that Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has endorsed wider access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone:
Speaking on Wednesday at a North Carolina overdose-prevention program, the Obama administration's drug czar Gil Kerlikowske called for increased action to prevent drug overdose deaths. Notably, Kerlikowske urged wider distribution of a medication called naloxone, an antidote to overdoses of opioid drugs, including prescription pain relievers and heroin, saying that "naloxone can be expanded beyond public health officials."
Currently, naloxone is available only by prescription and is otherwise accessed easily only by health professionals and some law enforcement officers. Kerlikowske's comments mark the first time the drug czar — who is more formally known as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy — has voiced support for broadening access to naloxone by addicted people, pain patients and their families. On Wednesday, he spoke with officials and others involved with Project Lazarus, a North Carolina program that pioneered wider distribution of the medication and is seen as a model prevention program for its comprehensive approach to fighting overdose and prescription drug misuse.
"As valuable as naloxone is, it's only a small piece of the broad spectrum of drug use prevention," Kerlikowske stressed, adding, "We're very serious about removing the legal impediments that can mean the difference between life and death. The odds of surviving an overdose, much like the odds of surviving a heart attack, really depend on how quickly the victim receives treatment."
As Szalavitz reported earlier this year, the FDA is already considering making naloxone available over the counter. Kerlikowske may not be leading the charge on this, but at least he's not fighting the flow. Reason on the usefulness of naloxone.