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Lifesaving overdose reversal drug still difficult to access

Regulations, medical deserts, stigma are barriers to getting Naloxone

May 25, 2023
uci health emergency medicine physician bharath chakravarthy, center wearing white shirt, leads residents in a class; chakravarthy talked to the guardian about barriers to accessing naloxone
UCI Health emergency medicine physician Dr. Bharath Chakravarthy
says that sending patients home with naloxone could save lives.

IN THE NEWS: When a drug to reverse opioid overdose became available over the counter across the U.S. in March, it was hailed as a “strong step forward” in preventing deaths. However, hurdles to accessing naloxone, such as dispensing regulations and fear of stigma, are limiting wider use.

UCI Health emergency medicine physician Dr. Bharath Chakravarthy spoke to The Guardian about one of the barriers to access: insisting someone go to the store to get it.

“It is definitely beneficial that this is available over the counter [but the] real issue is that patients are not getting their naloxone that way.”

Instead, he recommended sending patients home with the drug to save more lives.

Chakravarthy, who treats opioid addicts, noted that naloxone has been available over-the-counter in California since 2016. He compared urging patients to carry the drug with dentists urging people to floss.

“If you send that person home with floss, you have a way better chance of them using it,” he said. It’s “a very similar concept with naloxone.”

Chakravarthy is the vice chair of research and academic affairs and a professor in the UCI School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine. In 2015, he helped launch the Orange County Collaborative on Prescription Drug Abuse (SafeRx OC). The coalition of 19 organizations is dedicated to reducing the abuse and misuse of prescription medications, as well as preventing opioid deaths.

Chakravarthy is the author or co-author of dozens of journal articles on opioid treatment, prescription abuse and the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products.

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