Tim McGurk, public affairs manager for the chain's Louisville Division, told the Courier-Journal Monday that all area pharmacies can now dispense naloxone [pronounced nah-lox-own], which can quickly restore breathing after an overdose of heroin, fentanyl or a prescribed opioid painkiller. Customers don't have to have a prescription. Pharmacists will educate the recipient about the rescue drug, including how to administer it.
"We see the impact of this on families we serve in our pharmacies and it's devastating," said Rene Kendrick, Director of Pharmacy for Kroger's Louisville Division. "Our staff was very eager to help provide families a way to be prepared in the event they had an emergency."
More than 300 Kentucky Kroger pharmacists received training on naloxone this summer and obtained a certification from the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy after consulting with a physician to establish general protocols. The rescue drug already has been available in Northern Kentucky Kroger pharmacies without a prescription and is now in all 80 pharmacies in the Louisville division, which includes most of the Commonwealth - except Bowling Green, Ashland and stores on the state's western edge. Pharmacists in those stores also will eventually be trained, McGurk said.
Customers also can pick up the rescue drug at St. Matthews Community Pharmacy and CVS Pharmacy stores. The drug typically retails for between $140-170, with insurance often covering a significant portion of the cost, Kendrick said.
Access to naloxone, also known by an easy-to-use nasal spray Narcan, is continuing to spread across the city to combat a surge in overdose deaths. In Jefferson County, 131 overdose deaths last year were blamed on heroin or its mixture with other drugs, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy's 2015 Overdose Fatality Report.
Trinity High School and Saint Xavier High School officials previously armed themselves with the heroin overdose antidote, with other private and public schools considering adding the drug to their safety arsenal, along with the EpiPen.
Access to naloxone is continuing to spread across the commonwealth, with officers keeping it on tool belts, college students carrying it in backpacks, and some residents shoving kits in purses and pockets. The Metro Council has organized free training at local libraries and community centers led by the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition. Even some churches have hosted training sessions.
Kroger pharmacists are among more than 1,250 in Kentucky trained in dispensing naloxone without a prescription, along with 348 student pharmacists and 17 pharmacy techs, according to the report, "Increasing Naloxone Access in Kentucky," released last month by the Advancing Pharmacy Practice in Kentucky Coalition.
Trish Freeman, president of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, said her goal is to eventually have the antidote available in each of the state's 119 counties - excluding Robertson County - that has a community pharmacy.
Reporter Beth Warren can be reached at (502) 582-7164 or at email@example.com.