United States

I-Team: Naloxone Not As Readily Available in Suffolk County Pharmacies As NY Says

For someone overdosing on opioids, the drug naloxone works miracles.

"I don’t think I would be alive," Tatiana Green said of the antidote, after seven years of being clean.

Green said she first overdosed at the age of 18.

"Narcan was injected. It feels like a million pins and needles," said Green. "It feels like a bucket of ice is being poured on you. Very uncomfortable, it feels bad."

Naloxone, also known by the popular brand Narcan, is so powerful that the U.S. surgeon general and New York state officials are urging everyone to carry it.

That’s why New York allows some pharmacies to sell naloxone to anyone without a prescription. The state health commissioner said the program "ensures that this life-saving medication is widely accessible." 

But an I-Team investigation found that’s not always the case.

In Suffolk County, which is number one in New York for overdose deaths, the I-Team checked all 164 pharmacies on the state’s naloxone list -- the places with special authorization to sell the drug.

The I-Team found nearly a third don’t sell it at all, or do not understand the law.

Fifteen percent of pharmacies said that a prescription is required to buy naloxone. In some cases, they incorrectly said it was required for those underage. Sixteen percent of the pharmacies said to go somewhere else.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, which runs naloxone training courses, said the I-Team’s findings are a wakeup call.

"When you have a protocol coming down, that a lifesaving serum must have wide accessibility, and then you have pharmacies that are not complying with the protocol, you’re really putting individual lives and families at risk," he said.  

The New York state health department, which heads the program, told the I-Team, "We are actively working with pharmacies throughout the state to make sure all their employees are aware of standing orders permitting the sale of naloxone without a prescription and to promote the N-CAP program. We will continue to work with pharmacies and other community partners to ensure adequate access to naloxone."

The I-Team has reached out to all of the pharmacies found not in compliance. They said they are working to better communications with their staff and to review the I-Team's findings. 

Contact Us