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New Drug Promises to Help Battle Opioid Overdoses in Rural Areas

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

State Senators Gerald Dial, Jim McClendon and Steve Livingston announced Thursday that in cooperation with pharmaceutical company Kaléo, an injecting device that is meant to immediately stop the effects of an opioid overdose will be distributed to first responder units and to schools across the state.

EVZIO is an easy to use auto-injecting device, similar to an Epi-Pen, that contains naloxone hydrochloride which is meant to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose so that the patient can reach a proper medical facility and be treated further.

The device is easy to administer and provides on-the-spot voice and visual guidance so that anyone can use it during an opioid overdose. EVZIO could be especially useful in rural areas of Alabama where it can sometimes take more than an hour to reach the nearest hospital.

Dial announced on Thursday that they have spent the month of May distributing these devices to the volunteer rapid response units who are the ones called to a scene when someone has overdosed on drugs like opioids.

Dial said that so far the state has received 876 of the devices from the pharmaceutical company at no charge and will cost the state nothing since the company puts aside a certain amount in their budget for states to try out. Alabama is the second state to try the injector.

Since the beginning of May when the rapid response units were given EVZIO it has saved 15 lives in Alabama, Dial said.

The second phase of their plan to combat the opioid epidemic, Dial said, was to also allow any public or private school in Alabama to apply for the device as well.

According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the state is ranked the highest in the nation for opioid prescriptions, with 5.8 million prescriptions filled for opioids in 2015.

According to the National Institute on Drug abuse, in 2016 there were 343 opioid-related overdose deaths in Alabama—a rate of 7.5 deaths per 100,000 persons—nearly half the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Dial says that helping these people survive a drug overdose is only half of the battle and is actually affecting a lot more than just the people who use the drug.

“In the next step, you’ve got to educate people in the schools and in the state of what this drug is doing to them. It doesn’t just affect you, it affects the whole community, it affects everyone you’re related to and your friends. The drug it affecting your whole lifestyle,” Dial told Alabama Daily News.

“The other thing as to how it is affecting me and you is that it’s killing our economy. If we can’t have a workforce out there that can’t pass a drug test then there goes our economy. They have told me that out of 100 people who take the drug test to go into the military, only 10 of them come out drug-free, so look what it’s doing to our military and there for our whole country.”

In a press release from Dial’s office he said they will be working with Alabama’s Department of Public Health in order to track which devices are being used to that data can be collected to better anticipate the need for EVIZO in certain areas.

They hope by monitoring the injection devices, the data collected can be used by the state to better understand the demands of the rural community when it comes to opioid overdoses.

There were a number of the volunteer rapid response medics in the room when the announcement was made and each senator made sure to express how thankful they were that people like them were helping save lives every day in Alabama.

Caroline Beck is a reporter living in Montgomery. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineBeckADN or email her at [email protected]

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