In response to the nationwide opioid addiction crisis, Hy-Vee Inc. and regional health network CHI Health have joined forces to offer naloxone without a prescription at Hy-Vee pharmacies in Nebraska, and to make the lifesaving drug available soon at CHI Health pharmacies. Nebraska is the fifth state in Hy-Vee’s eight-state footprint where the grocer is providing naloxone without a prescription.
In Nebraska, pharmacists can dispense naloxone without a prescription according to a physician-signed protocol with a designated pharmacy or pharmacy chain. To help prevent opioid overdose deaths, CHI Health gave Hy-Vee the physician-signed protocol. Previously, the only way for individuals to get naloxone was through a doctor or other prescriber, followed by a trip to the pharmacy for the drug.
“We know the availability of this medication has the potential to save lives,” said Kristin Williams, Hy-Vee’s SVP and chief health officer. “It’s vital that we do everything we can to assist those with a loved one who may encounter an opioid overdose by combining medications or by accidentally taking too much of a medication, being unaware of the life-threatening result.”
“Time is of the essence when someone is experiencing an opioid overdose,” explained Dr. Christopher Criscuolo, a pain medicine physician and anesthesiologist with Omaha-based CHI Health. “We believe that working with Hy-Vee to make this medication more quickly and easily accessible will have real impact on this crisis in Nebraska. As physicians, we want to do all we can to save lives, and that includes arming patients with information and tools like naloxone that can help save their friends and family.”
Naloxone is available upon request at Hy-Vee pharmacies as a nasal spray or an injection, although the nasal spray is more commonly used. The drug is kept behind the counter, and its cost varies depending on the form and whether a customer has insurance or pays cash.
Hy-Vee pharmacists will also make sure that patients and family members recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and know how to administer the medication. Naloxone can keep an overdosing individual alive until emergency treatment arrives and long-term treatment is provided. The medication has no effect if opioids are absent from an overdosing person’s system.
Naloxone can be administered to anyone who has overdosed on a wide range of opioids, among them hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine, as well as heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,000 people died from opioid use in 2015, more than any year on record. Almost half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating more than 240 retail stores across eight Midwestern states.
CHI Health consists of 14 hospitals, two stand-alone behavioral health facilities, more than 150 employed physician practice locations, and more than 14,000 employees in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa. The network is part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national nonprofit health system based in Englewood, Colo.