Direct Relief Providing Overdose-Reversing Naloxone Nationwide to Safety-Net Health Clinics

In response to the opioid epidemic in the United States, Direct Relief is working with Pfizer to make up to 1 million doses of overdose-reversing Naloxone available at no cost to community health centers, free and charitable clinics, public health departments and other nonprofit providers nationwide.

Naloxone can save the life of a person in the midst of an opioid overdose. More community clinicians across the nation have requested Naloxone, and Pfizer and Direct Relief are working to equip healthcare providers with the drug. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

“Pfizer has a long-standing commitment to improving health outcomes by expanding access to medicines and ensuring patient safety through educational activities,” said Caroline Roan, vice president, Corporate Responsibility, Pfizer. “Our support of Direct Relief’s work to increase community education about the risks of opioid abuse and recently expanded Naloxone Access Program underscore our dedication to helping address the growing opioid overdose epidemic.”

Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids ­– including prescription opioids and heroin – quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Naloxone can rapidly revive normal breathing in an individual who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid medications.

To gauge demand for the drug and obtain perspectives from clinicians working in primary care health settings, Direct Relief surveyed thousands of health centers, free and charitable clinics, and public health departments nationwide.

The survey revealed that community health centers and clinics are dealing more frequently with opioid-related overdoses. Respondents also requested more than 45,000 doses of the medicine, which has long been used in hospital emergency rooms.

Direct Relief began delivering the donations in March 2017. The initial distributions to facilities in 38 states included 36,790 doses of the drug, with priority given to communities with the most overdoses and to providers with existing programs and training in place.

“America’s nonprofit community health centers and clinics are on the front lines of the opioid overdose epidemic, as they are in every major public health issue,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe.  “Direct Relief is deeply thankful for Pfizer’s expansive commitment of Naloxone, which will not only avert tragedy and save lives but also help the safety-net health centers lean into the critically important preventive and education measures at which they excel in their communities.”

Direct Relief operates the nation’s largest charitable medicine program, is licensed to distribute prescription drugs in all 50 states, and is the only humanitarian nonprofit designated as a verified-accredited wholesale distributor by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Future shipments will include needles, syringes and alcohol swabs, which BD has donated to support the effort.