California Pharmacists Can Soon Dispense Opioid Overdose Antidote Without Prescriptions

California joins 5 other states in allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.

A new California law will allow pharmacists throughout the state to dispense the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone (Narcan), without a prescription.

Beginning January 1, 2015, California pharmacists can furnish naloxone to family members of patients at risk for overdose, those who might be in contact with an individual at risk for overdose, or anyone who requests the drug. Dispensing is pursuant to guidelines developed by the state’s boards of pharmacy and medicine.

The Drug Policy Alliance and California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) co-sponsored the legislation, which was authored by State Assemblyman Richard Bloom and signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 15, 2014.

“We applaud Governor Brown for prioritizing the reduction of deaths resulting from opioid overdoses,” CPhA CEO Jon R. Roth said in a press release. “Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers, and are trusted by their patients. Bloom’s bill will allow us to furnish this life-saving medication to patients who need it.”

The legislation received additional support from the California Hospital Association, California Mental Health Directors Association, Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and Medical Board of California, according to a press release from Bloom’s office. To date, laws making naloxone available from pharmacists without a prescription have also been passed in New Mexico, Washington, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

“Allowing highly trained and trusted health care professionals such as pharmacists to make naloxone more widely available will save lives,” Bloom said in a press release. “This is a major victory in our efforts to combat the rising rate of overdose fatalities—not only in California, but across the country. The overdose crisis is one of the country’s most serious health problems, and this new law will give us another tool to help combat this epidemic.”

In the meantime, California’s existing “911 Good Samaritan” law provides protections to those who administer nalaxone at the scene of an overdose, noted a statement from the CPhA.