Pa. expands access to drugs that reverse opioid overdoses

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

Naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses, is now available in a variety of formulations. 

A standing order from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf that allowed the general public and first responders to obtain the drug from their local pharmacy free of charge has been expanded to include a variety of forms to administer the drug. 

In 2022, the standing order expanded to include an 8 milligram naloxone nasal spray, ZIMHI, a 5 milligram intra-muscular injection device, and most recently, a syringe option with two single-dose vials of naloxone that is injectable and not prefilled. 

“A key component to decreasing overdose deaths is getting naloxone into all communities across the state,” said Steve Ross, of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. “By adding different forms of naloxone to the standing order . . . we’re giving Pennsylvanians additional resources for combatting the increase in fentanyl.”  

Naloxone is a medication approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose by quickly restoring breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped. It can be administered by individuals with or without medical training to help reduce opioid overdose deaths.

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State officials talk about the expanded standing order to make naloxone readily available to combat overdoses from opioids.

“Naloxone is now available in all four forms, including the most cost-effective non prefilled syringe and vial version,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, the state's acting secretary of health. “I want to make it easy for pharmacies to keep naloxone on hand and to provide residents with the option they feel most comfortable using to save a life.”  

In August 2022, the Wolf administration announced that 10,000 requests for naloxone have been filled through the mail-based program, providing almost 36,000 doses of naloxone to people in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. 

Since 2017, the state has helped distribute roughly 450,000 Narcan kits.

To learn more about the state's opioid programs and how to obtain a kit, visit pa.gov/opioids.