U.S. Sen. Angus King is urging CVS pharmacies to make an antidote for heroin and other narcotic overdoses available in Maine without a prescription.

On Monday, CVS announced it was offering naloxone, also known as Narcan, over the counter in Ohio, the 14th state where the chain is selling the antidote without requiring a prescription.

King, a Maine independent, sent a letter Wednesday to CVS Vice President Tom Davis saying it is crucial to provide easier access to the antidote in Maine given the state’s high number of fatal heroin overdoses. Maine had 71 fatal heroin overdoses through the first nine months of 2015, compared with seven for all of 2010.

“Naloxone is a critical tool in the fight against opioid deaths, and providing quicker, easier access to it will save more lives. CVS has a strong presence in Maine with 22 locations; as you consider expanding this model program I hope that you will give strong consideration to including Maine,” King wrote in his letter. “Allowing Mainers to easily get this lifesaving drug from their local CVS pharmacy would be a huge step forward.”

Erin Britt, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island-based national drug chain, said in a written statement that CVS will consider expanding the chain’s naloxone program into Maine.

“CVS Health is committed to helping the communities we serve address and prevent opioid abuse, and we will work with Sen. King and leaders across the state of Maine to evaluate expansion of our naloxone program in accordance with state regulations,” Britt wrote.

Over the past two years, Maine has allowed family and friends of opiate users to obtain prescriptions so they can administer the drug in the event of an overdose. The drug, which is sprayed into the nasal passages, can reverse the effects of an overdose in minutes.

Paramedics administer naloxone when they have confirmed that someone has overdosed and had administered the drug a total of 91 times through July 31 in Portland, according to fire officials. In a 24-hour period that included part of that day, city emergency crews responded to 14 suspected heroin overdoses.

Ambulance crews told the Press Herald at the time that they were glad the drug was saving lives, but frustrated at the lack of treatment options for addicts afterward. Many overdose victims would be taken to Maine Medical Center’s emergency department, released hours later, and would go back to using heroin.

A King spokesman said he believed the CVS drug store chain has been the most aggressive in making naloxone available over the counter.

In addition to Ohio, CVS stores in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin offer naloxone without a prescription.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: joelawlorph


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