Doctors should discuss with patients for whom they prescribe opioid painkillers, and their caregivers, the availability of the opioid antidote naloxone in the event the patient overdoses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a news release. The agency is also requiring drug makers to include the recommendation to health care professionals on the labels of the opioids and opioid use disorder (OUD) treatments they manufacture.
Naloxone is a medication that can be administered by anyone — with or without medical training — to someone who is overdosing on opioids. If naloxone is administered quickly, it can counter the overdose effects and save lives.
“Even during this global pandemic, we have continued to prioritize addressing the opioid crisis,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “Today’s action can help further raise awareness about this potentially life-saving treatment for individuals that may be at greater risk of an overdose and those in the community most likely to observe an overdose. We will use all available tools to address this crisis, and we know efforts to increase access to naloxone have the potential to put an important medicine for combating opioid overdose and death in the hands of those who need it most – those at increased risk of opioid overdose and their friends and family.”
The labeling also recommends that health care providers consider prescribing naloxone to patients treated with opioids who are at increased risk of overdose. This includes people who are taking other medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin) or other medications that depress the central nervous system; those with a history of OUD; and those who have experienced a prior overdose. Doctors should also consider prescribing the naloxone to patients with household members, including children, or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or opioid overdose.
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by this crisis.