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Community groups running short of naloxone, warn of potential increase in overdose deaths

An affordable antidote for opioid overdoses has become more difficult to obtain amid a fatal epidemic, in what advocates have called a “perfect storm” with deadly consequences (Source: “Affordable naloxone is running out, creating a perfect storm for more overdose deaths, activists say,” Washington Post, Aug. 11).

After a manufacturing issue halted Pfizer’s production of the single-dose injectable naloxone in April, groups that distribute a significant amount of the lifesaving medicine say they are facing an unprecedented obstacle to reverse drug overdoses as they reach an all-time high. Organizers say the insufficient supply has been felt unequally across the country.

Pfizer, which offers naloxone at a discount to a national buyer’s club made up of harm prevention programs, said it may take until February before it can meet demand again. The Opioid Safety and Naloxone Network Buyer’s Club, the national consortium of more than 100 harm reduction programs that have provided millions of doses since 2012 to communities at a reduced price, says the unprecedented scarcity is expected to have deadly consequences.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be able to spend $30 million allocated in the American Rescue Plan — the first federal funds designated specifically for harm reduction by Congress — on naloxone once it is available. In the meantime, according to HHS, states can seek funds through grant programs run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.