Update: On June 21, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation allowing pharmacists to sell and dispense naloxone without a prescription.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Less than a week before musician Prince died, his plane made an emergency stop so he could get a medicine to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. That medicine is naloxone. Missouri and Kansas are among just five states that have yet to pass a law that would improve access to it.
Let's say that you find a friend or loved one unresponsive because of an overdose from heroin or a prescription painkiller. A clinical pharmacist at Truman Medical Center said naloxone could help you be a lifesaver.
"Naloxone is able to come into the body and kick that opioid off the receptor. It counteracts any negative effect the opioids are producing," said Katie Korte.
Until recently, naloxone was mainly available through hospitals, clinics and some first responders in an injectable form. Now a nasal spray and autoinjector are also available. Loved ones or friends could use one before first responders arrive. Forty-five states have passed laws that allow people to go to a pharmacy and buy naloxone without a prescription. Kansas and Missouri are not among them, but a bill in Missouri is awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon's signature.
Some people argue that having naloxone more easily available will discourage people from seeking treatment by giving them a safety net if they do overdose. An addiction counselor with First Call disagrees.
"People who don't struggle with substance use disorder may not understand that at this point, it's not a choice. It's not a decision," said Megan Fowler.
The pharmacist said the risks with naloxone are minimal although anyone who may administer it needs to be educated.
"On what that opioid overdose looks like and if that's an appropriate situation," said Korte.
She said it will still be important to call 9-1-1 first.
Even if laws are enacted in Missouri and Kansas, the skyrocketing cost of naloxone may limit its use. FOX 4 checked, and it costs between $175 and several thousand dollars for one dose, and insurers are reluctant to cover it.