CINCINNATI — Kroger stores in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky will begin selling the heroin overdose antidote Narcan without a prescription on Monday, the company announced.
Friday's announcement covers 84 pharmacies in southwest Ohio and 16 pharmacies in Northern Kentucky in the Cincinnati/Dayton division.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman attended the announcement at the Oakley Kroger Marketplace and showed their support. So did a shopper, Patrice Foster. She said she recognizes the need.
"As long as they're offering them help, with the epidemic we have in Cincinnati, I think that's all right." Foster said. "As long as they got an option to get off what they're on, it's all right for me."
Portman agreed that it's not enough to just provide Narcan - that family members and friends have to deliver a message to loved ones hooked on heroin.
"If you have to apply this, be darn sure you're also applying a message, which is, 'Please go to treatment. Get into recovery. Please don't go through this again,'" Portman said.
Timely use of Narcan (Naloxone) reverses the effects of opiate overdoses. An $80 kit contains two doses of nasal spray.
Purchasers will go through a consultation and an eight-step education checklist before receiving the drug.
Kroger also announced it will begin non-prescription sales Wednesday at 112 pharmacies in its Columbus division, one pharmacy in its Central division and three pharmacies in its Mid-Atlantic division. In total, 216 Kroger pharmacies across Ohio will dispense Narcan without a prescription, the company said.
CVS announced earlier this month it would make Narcan available without a prescription at all of its pharmacies in Ohio beginning next month.
Only 27 pharmacies out of the 2,132 in the state currently sell Narcan over the counter without a prescription, according to the list compiled by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. That's partly due to the state requirement that pharmacies develop protocol and training for all of their pharmacists and then have a doctor sign off on the protocol.
There is no such requirement for pharmacies selling Narcan with a prescription.
“Unfortunately, Ohio and Kentucky rank in the top five when it comes to the highest overdose death rate according to the Centers for Disease Control. Kroger wants to help reverse this horrible statistic,” said Jeff Talbot, Kroger vice president, Cincinnati/Dayton division. “We want families dealing with addiction to know that they can count on having this drug available in the event that they need it.”
“Kroger pharmacies will be helping to make a life-saving tool available to those who have a family member or someone close to them who suffers from an opiate addiction,” said DeWine. “While many of our first responders carry Naloxone, having it available on a wider basis will no doubt help save lives."
Kroger said it has been working with Dr. Shawn Ryan, University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, in developing a protocol and processes for dispensing Narcan without a prescription in Ohio.
“It’s critical that pharmacists be able to educate families and friends of loved ones suffering from addiction on how to handle and administer Naloxone if needed," Ryan said. "I highly commend Kroger for taking this step to help with the opiate addiction crisis.
“This marks an important step in our fight to combat addiction and we all need to continue to work for a bottom-up, comprehensive approach to the heroin epidemic," Portman added.
Narcan is routinely carried by police, fire and rescue crews, which use it thousands of times a year in Ohio to revive overdose victims.
Kroger, based in Cincinnati, has 2,774 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia.