New York State Department of Health Partners With CVS/Pharmacy to Make Overdose-reversing Drug Available Without a Prescription

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 14, 2016) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) today announced an agreement with CVS/pharmacy that will help prevent opioid overdose deaths in New York State. This agreement, effective January 2, 2016 authorizes 479 CVS/pharmacy locations across the State to provide naloxone to their customers without a prescription. Pharmacists are currently receiving training and ordering naloxone for their stores. Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) is a medication which reverses opioid overdose, and is one of the priorities at the center of Governor Cuomo's fight to end opioid abuse in New York State.

"Naloxone is a proven life-saver that counteracts the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally." Said State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker. "This agreement with CVS/pharmacy will help to save lives and hopefully get people on the road to recovery."

When administered either through injection or by nasal spray, naloxone temporarily blocks the effects of opioids allowing a stricken individual to regain consciousness and resume normal breathing. These potentially life-threatening opioids include medicines prescribed to address pain as well as illicit drugs such as heroin.

"I commend Governor Cuomo for this agreement with CVS/pharmacy," NYS OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said. "Making this medication available over the counter will not only increase the number of New Yorkers trained in its use, but also increase the number of lives saved. It is my hope victims will use the second chance to seek treatment in order to live a healthy life in recovery."

Access to naloxone is one of the priorities at the center of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid epidemic in New York State. Governor Cuomo signed into law last year, legislation to combat opioid abuse. One element of that legislation was strengthening the State's opioid overdose initiative. Through that initiative, which started in 2006, more than 85,000 community members and public safety personnel have been trained to recognize opioid overdoses and to respond by administering naloxone and by calling 911. More than 43,000 of the responders were trained in the last twelve months. Through their efforts, more than 1,500 lives have been saved since January 2014.

Additionally, in 2014, Governor Cuomo launched the Combat Heroin & Prescription Drug Abuse Campaign to educate New Yorkers about the risks of heroin and prescription opioid use and to provide them with helpful resources. At the Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse website, New Yorkers can find information about preventing substance abuse in the first place; the warning signs of heroin and opioid abuse and misuse; accessing drug treatment and harm reduction services; and making one's home and community safer.

Although traditionally administered by emergency medical (EMS) or hospital personnel, naloxone can be administered by laypeople with minimal training. CVS pharmacists are now able to provide this training in addition to dispensing the naloxone to their customers. All individuals who are given naloxone should still go to the hospital with EMS personnel. Naloxone is effective in blocking the effects of an opioid for 30 to 90 minutes. When the naloxone has worn off, someone may slip back into a life-threatening overdose.

"Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by expanding access to this medication in our New York pharmacies by the use of a physician's standing order for patients without a prescription, we can help save lives," saidTom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS/pharmacy. "We support expanding naloxone availability and we applaud the State of New York for its leadership in the fight against drug abuse and addiction."

Naloxone poses no danger to individuals who come into contact with it, and has no potential for being abused. It works only if a person has opioids in his or her system; the medication has no effect if opioids are absent.

New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the State's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369). Treatment providers can also be located on the NYS OASAS Find Help page. Visit for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help.