Why is Naloxone Under Prescribed?

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a relatively harmless drug that combats the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone works by fighting the depression of the central nervous system and allows the respiratory and cardiovascular systems to continue to function in the event of an overdose. This medication can be life saving, but why are Naloxone prescriptions lower than anticipated?

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open describes the low percentage of Naloxone prescriptions despite the large number of people that would benefit from it. In this study of 138,108 high overdose risk patients, lead researcher, Dr. Pho, found that only about 1.5% had been prescribed Naloxone. That is a shockingly low prescription rate for a drug that can save someone’s life in the case of an emergency. The cohort included patients that had previously experienced an overdose and those that were at high risk of overdose. The study attributes the low prescription rates to the cost of the medication, the complicated distribution network, and a lack of awareness. A major issue with the opioid epidemic is the public perception and harmful stigma surrounding it. People are less likely to ask for help when the social reaction is so negative. Opioid addiction is a disease like any other, and people suffering from it need our help.

The best way to reduce opioid dependencies and overdoses is to limit the prescription of these medications to only the cases that need it. Opioids are often used as a quick fix for pain relief. At Elihu Institute for Pain Management in Culver City and Beverly Hills, our experienced physicians work closely with patients to develop pain management strategies and treatment plans without the use of opioid medication. While it is sometimes appropriate to use opioids in rare cases – such as in patients with cancer – we can use advanced methods such as intrathecal morphine pumps that are delivered spinally to reduce the total delivery of these medications, often reducing the dose by up to 100 times.  We use conservative management whenever possible, but we also offer more advanced interventional procedures, such as sympathetic nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulators. Schedule a consultation today with me for an initial pain management consultation.

Koorosh Joshua Elihu, MD

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