California programs are waiting weeks for free Narcan to prevent overdose deaths. But in California, only 23 pharmacists are trained in the drug, and the state doesn’t plan to train another 150 within two years.
The program is facing opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown, who’s running for president in 2016. Some law-enforcement groups are also worried about the program’s effect on drugs of abuse: While people who take overdose-reversing drugs are less likely to overdose, it may lead people to use them more, resulting in more overdose deaths.
California is also facing a challenge in its long-running attempt to increase access to the drug. In 2006, a bill passed that would have allowed pharmacies to sell Narcan through their websites, and it was signed into law by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown. But drugmakers lobbied against the law, and it died in 2007.
More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the California law, and a group of health-care workers has filed a federal lawsuit against the state. Some pharmacists have been threatened for selling Narcan to patients, while local police have used Narcan on patients who are trying to obtain it illegally. One patient died from an overdose after Narcan was used to revive her.
At a news conference Wednesday outlining the lawsuit filed by a group of health-care workers, attorney William McDonough criticized the state’s program, saying it was too far out of the mainstream of pain management. “The California program is an example of the failure of the legal system and the health-care system as it has traditionally been practiced,” McDonough said.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Oct. 28.
The program’s critics also included law-enforcement officers, who said the law was dangerous.
“It’s absolutely necessary to administer Narcan,” said Mike Spar, president of the California Association of Fire