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J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2017 Mar - Apr;57(2S):S180-S184. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2016.11.007. Epub 2017 Jan 7.

State legal innovations to encourage naloxone dispensing.



The opioid overdose epidemic continues to claim the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year. Increased access to the opioid antagonist naloxone can reduce opioid-related morbidity and mortality. In this commentary, we describe several recent legal innovations designed to encourage pharmacists to ensure that naloxone is available when and where it is needed, and dispel some common misconceptions regarding potential legal risks associated with pharmacy naloxone dispensing.


Data are drawn from state laws and regulations, as catalogued by the Westlaw database.


States have rapidly modified law and policy to increase layperson access to naloxone. As of August 2016, 44 states permit naloxone to be prescribed for administration to a person with whom the prescriber does not have a prescriber-patient relationship. Forty-two states permit naloxone to be dispensed via a non-patient-specific mechanism such as a standing or protocol order, and 5 states permit some pharmacists to prescribe naloxone on their own authority. The liability risk associated with naloxone dispensing is no higher than any other medication, and may be lower than some. However, to encourage the prescription and dispensing of naloxone, 36 states provide additional protection from civil liability for pharmacy naloxone dispensing, and 32 states provide protection from potential criminal action. Naloxone access laws in 31 states explicitly provide that dispensing naloxone as permitted by law cannot be grounds for disciplinary action by the state board of pharmacy or similar entity.


Pharmacists are key members of the health care team and are uniquely situated to reduce potential opioid overdose risk. Pharmacists should be aware of and utilize innovative state laws designed to increase access to naloxone.

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