Aetna provided 720 doses of Narcan to first responders in the Northern Kentucky and Appalachia regions to help prevent opioid overdose-related deaths in the area.
Narcan nasal spray is one formulation of naloxone, that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Aetna has donated the intranasal formulation due to its ease of use for first responders in the field.
Opioid overdoses have quadrupled in the United States since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 people in Kentucky have died from drug overdoses each year, according to the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy. The Commonwealth of Kentucky is particularly hard-hit by the epidemic, with the third highest rate of overdoses nationally.
“First responders are uniquely positioned to address the terrible effects of the opioid crisis – particularly in Kentucky, where overdose deaths increased significantly from 2015 to 2016,” said Hal L. Paz, M.D., M.S., executive vice president and chief medical officer at Aetna. “Providing Narcan kits to first responders will save lives, granting those affected the opportunity to receive the long-term treatment and support they need.”
The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy’s 2016 Overdose Fatality Report states there were 1,404 overdose deaths in Kentucky – a 12.5 percent increase from 2015. In 2016, heroin was a factor in 456 fatal overdoses in Kentucky, and the opioid fentanyl contributed to 623 overdose deaths, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
“Aetna is committed to changing the system in regard to opioid abuse by helping those who need support in real, measurable ways. Providing Narcan to first responders in Kentucky is the latest step in our efforts to address this national crisis,” said Aetna President Karen S. Lynch. “With the Narcan kits, Aetna is equipping first responders with the necessary tools to help save lives.”
The Narcan kits were distributed to local first responders at an event at the Boone County Sherriff Training Center in Burlington, Kentucky, on Aug. 23, 2017. Paz spoke at the event, as well as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. The event included a training on how to administer Narcan, led by Dan Knecht, M.D., head of clinical strategy for Health & Clinical Services at Aetna. Bevin also participated in the training demonstration as well.
More than two-thirds of law enforcement agencies in Northern Kentucky are now interested or wanting to carry naloxone.
“We are grateful to Aetna for their generous donation in support of Kentucky’s fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Bevin. “We don’t have the luxury of pretending there isn’t a problem and Aetna is helping us address this issue head on. Every single life has value and is worth saving. It is up to all of us to work together and find real, long-lasting solutions.”
Kentucky launched a public awareness campaign in July 2017 highlighting the dangers of opioid misuse and abuse and offering information on drug treatment and naloxone. The campaign’s central message, “Don’t Let Them Die,” urged residents to help friends, family and communities overcome the crisis.
“Naloxone is an important safety tool for Kentucky’s law enforcement officers, helping to protect both the citizens and officers,” said Lynne M. Saddler, M.D., MPH, district director of health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “Police are often the first on the scene of potential overdose, and can administer naloxone as a life-saving measure until EMS arrives. Further, police officers may be accidentally exposed to opioids through the course of their work. With powerful opioids like fentanyl circulating in our communities, this exposure could lead to potential overdose – with instance of this having been reported recently in nearby states. Naloxone can be a tool to protect officer safety.”
Aetna is also helping Kentucky to address the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) cases in the state, where there are over 100 new cases each month. The state experienced a 23-fold increase of newborns born with NAS from 2001 to 2014. In July 2017, Aetna sent 855 letters to OB-GYNs and midwives within Aetna’s network in Kentucky, encouraging them to screen pregnant women for substance use disorders. Early identification of opioid-dependent pregnant women improves maternal and fetal outcomes. Aetna Better Healthy Kentucky (Medicaid) has a NAS program that leverages case managers to support pregnant members whose babies are at risk for NAS. The letter also provided contact information regarding this program.
In June 2017, Aetna published its opioid strategy paper and announced five-year goals to battle the opioid epidemic. To support this strategy, Aetna has various initiatives to prevent the misuse and abuse of opioids and help treat addiction, such as sending out letters to super-prescribers and eliminating the preauthorization requirements on all buprenorphine products. Buprenorphine products are used to treat opioid addiction.
— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) August 23, 2017
Read more about Aetna’s commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic and other programs and measures in place to prevent prescription drug misuse and addiction.