Gov. Brian Sandoval’s opioid task force got an update on progress in dealing with the epidemic on Wednesday including a first look at website providing public information on the situation, efforts to distribute the life-saving naloxone that can reverse an overdose and a boost in disposing of old drugs offered free by Walmart.
They were told that opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.
Catherine O’Mara of the medical association said it has taken a while for physicians to get used to the new rules limiting the duration and quantities they can prescribe to patients. She said she knows there have been complaints by patients that they can’t get the medications, but she added that some of those patients are those who aren’t supposed to get opioids in the quantities they would like.
“Physicians are starting to get comfortable with the law,” she said.
The meeting chaired by Chief of Staff Mike Willden was told the website containing a lot of data about opioid abuse, overdoses and where they are occurring is now up and running. Kyra Morgan, state biostatistician for Health and Human Services, said overdose and abuse reporting is improving every month.
O’Mara said the opioid reporting website is at https://opioid.snhd.org
O’Mara said her office now has an information sharing agreement with the state Criminal History Repository as well.
Julia Peek of the Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said once the permanent regulations are in place, they intend to step up the push to get “real time” reports of use and abuse statewide.
She and others pointed out that providing services in rural Nevada is a serious problem. Phil Cowee of the USDA’s Rural Development Director in Nevada said USDA is working with the state to get more resources to the rurals using funding in the omnibus spending bill including the telemedicine grants program and trying to understand where the gaps in service are.
The audience and task force also were told efforts to purchase and distribute naloxone (Narcan) also are expanding, providing the drugs not only to medics and other medical responders but to law enforcement. Naloxone can save lives by reversing the symptoms of an overdose in a matter of minutes and can now be purchased over the counter by anyone.
One of the thorny problems for the task force is how to get rid of unused, out-of-date opioid and other prescriptions. Officials say the most common way, particularly teens get those dangerous drugs are from their family members and friends, taking them out of the medicine cabinet.
Most water utilities don’t want them dumped in their systems because they can’t filter all of the drugs out of the water.
The state is installing incinerators in five locations in rural Nevada while Clark and Washoe counties continue to rely on out of state contracts with companies to do the job.
But Anna Carr, Walmart’s Pharmacy Clinical Services Manager, told the task force that company is providing another alternative — for free. She said Walmart is making DisposeRx, a powder that can destroy opioids or any other drugs safely, available for free to anyone who comes into one of their 4,700 pharmacies nationwide.
She said DisposeRx is a powder people simply add to the pill bottle along with some water and, in 30 seconds, it completely encases the pills in a non-toxic plastic-like polymer and renders it completely inactive. The pill bottle can then be simply thrown away and. She said it is approved by both the EPA and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Carr said customers with chronic opioid prescriptions will be offered DisposeRx every six months and that anyone can walk into a Walmart and ask for a free packet.
She said it works not only on pills but capsules and even skin patches and on all types of drugs.
Willden said there are a couple of other companies also developing safe ways to dispose of unused drugs.
He said there will be another task force meeting to update everyone probably in July and one in November as well. He said he hopes that whoever succeeds Sandoval as governor will continue to process.