TAMPA, Fla. and LOUISVILLE, Ky., June 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In 2014, drug overdoses killed 1,087 Kentuckians -- 422 more than were killed in car accidents. Overdoses from opioids, such as heroin, have taken a staggering toll on Kentucky families in the last few years.
In an effort to curtail the rise of opioid overdose fatalities, WellCare of Kentucky, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG), is making 1,000 twist-on nasal atomizers available, free of charge with doses of naloxone, a drug that immediately reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. The atomizers allow naloxone to be administered like a nasal spray instead of through an injection – which can be a less intimidating way to deliver the life-saving drug.
The atomizers, which will be distributed by Kentucky Board of Pharmacy certified pharmacists, will be provided to Medicaid recipients and individuals who do not have insurance coverage. A state law passed last year allows board-certified pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription to people who may be at risk for an overdose. The recipients give the recovery kit to parents, spouses, roommates or friends to administer in case of emergency.
"People most at risk for overdose are not necessarily the heavy daily users. It's people in early stages of recovery who are far more likely to overdose," said Chris Clifton, president of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association. "That's why it's important for family and friends of people struggling with opioid addiction, especially those who are recovering, to have access to naloxone in an easy-to-use application. We are grateful to WellCare of Kentucky for their generous contribution, which absolutely can save lives."
"WellCare and the Kentucky Pharmacists Association are being proactive in helping people battle opioid addiction," said Kelly Munson, WellCare's senior vice president, division president and Medicaid product. "We believe in educating toward prevention, assisting and treating when needed, and being ready in cases of emergency."
Naloxone immediately reverses the effects of an overdose from heroin, Percocet™, OxyContin™ and other opioids by unlinking the drug's chemical bonds to brain receptors. Naloxone has minimal side effects and cannot be abused on its own.
The atomizers are simple foam cones that twist onto the naloxone syringe. They retail for $10-$12 which can be a barrier to access for some.
Louisville attorney Clay Masterson, a recovering addict, knows what it's like to be saved by naloxone. Several years ago, Masterson stopped using heroin for two weeks, but then relapsed. His usual dose was too strong for his body, causing an overdose.
"Without naloxone, I would have been dead. Period," said Masterson. "I got lucky; my friends were responsible and called EMS."
An EMT delivered a life-saving dose of naloxone. It was a crucial turning point for Masterson. Soon, he started attending recovery meetings and has now been sober for more than two years.
"Addicts are sick people. They're not bad people or morally flawed. They are just desperately sick people," said Masterson. "Naloxone provides a chance to start over. I don't want to see anyone die from something so preventable."
Pharmacists began picking up atomizers at the Kentucky Pharmacists Association annual conference in downtown Louisville today.
Medicaid recipients and individuals without insurance who are interested in receiving a take-home naloxone with an atomizer should check with their local pharmacy for availability. Individuals who do not receive Medicaid benefits should consult their health insurer for information on how to get naloxone.
For more information on the program, call the Kentucky Pharmacists Association at 502-227-2303 or visit, www.kphanet.org.
As of March 31, 2016, WellCare serves approximately 439,000 Medicaid members, 8,000 Medicare Advantage plan members and 21,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Kentucky. To learn more about how we care for Kentuckians, watch Brandi's story at http://youtu.be/YwOw5EgeSYo.
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. WellCare serves approximately 3.7 million members nationwide as of March 31, 2016. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com or view the company's videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/WellCareHealthPlan.
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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.