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State lawmakers announce grant to fight opioid overdoses

Brandon Moseley

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State Sens. Gerald Dial and Jim McClendon announced a new grant from Kaleo Pharmaceuticals that will provide every volunteer rescue squad truck in the state of Alabama with a potentially life-saving treatment for the growing number of opioid overdoses in the state.

Executives with Kaleo, state Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health, state rescue squad leaders, and the Attorney General’s Office were on hand for the announcement in the historic Old House Chambers in Alabama’s state capitol building.

“I am excited to announce this grant donation by Kaleo Pharmaceuticals today,” Dial said. “Their gift – will literally save lives across Alabama. As our state has one of the highest rates per capita for prescribed opioids, we also have the highest number of opioid related overdoses and deaths. Regardless of how one becomes addicted to opioids, it is a loss to our families, communities and future.”

“Addicts do not intend to become addicted,” McClendon said. “There was no intention to forego their families, jobs, and friends. Addicts often gain their addiction via legally prescribed pain kills, opioids in particular, while others become addicted by recreational use of addictive drugs.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a statement, “Increasing access to naloxone is one tool the Alabama Department of Public Health *ADPH) is using to stem the tide of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the ‘Worst drug overdose epidemic’ in United States history. In December 2016, ADPH issued a standing order to ensure the availability of naloxone to any person who is at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose, or to an individual in a position to assist someone at risk of experiencing such an overdose.”

The Executive Secretary of the Alabama Board of Pharmacy Susan Alverson said, “Pharmacists are readily accessible health care providers who can play a vital role in reducing fatal opioid overdoses through the administration and provision of naloxone to both patients and caregivers.”

“In Alabama, pharmacists may dispense naloxone to patients or family members based on a standing order signed by the Director of the State Department of Public Health,” Alverson said.

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“The Alabama Emergency Management Agency understand the opioid crisis is a matter of National Security and is a man-made disaster that is eating at the fabric of our families and communities,” Alabama EMA Director Brian Hastings said. “Powerful Public-Private Partnerships like this with Kaleo Pharmaceuticals increases the lifesaving capability of our volunteer organizations and are a critical part of the whole of government and community effort required to help addicts and families heal from the national scourge.”

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“Opioid abuse is a tragedy that strikes close to the hearts of communities throughout Alabama devastating families and destroying lives,” said Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. “We need to do everything possible to fight it by curbing excessive prescriptions, making effective treatment available, and enforcing laws to stop traffickers.”

State Representative Arnold Mooney said that a man in his Church died from a fentanyl overdose. His death devastating his father and brother. “Saving lives from conception to death is very important to me. I want to congratulate Senators McClendon and Dial for the work they have done on this. I am so thankful to Kaleo Pharmaceuticals for providing lifesaving medications like this.”

EVZIO is a small two dose auto-injector of naloxone. Trainers with Kaleo showed state rescue squad leaders and reporters how to administer the treatment.

When first responders respond to an overdose, you simply remove the protective cover, hold the EVZIO device to the thigh of the victim and push the button to inject the naloxone. Every EVZIO is equipped with a speaker that gives instructions on how to use the device.

If the patient does not respond or slips back into unconsciousness administer the second dose three to five minutes later. Every EVZIO unit comes with a trainer device that does not include a needle or medicine and can be reused to practice the injection process.

Kaleo Director of Corporate Affairs Samuel Schwartz said that they have given away 300,000 of these to help fight the rising tide of opioid overdoses. The first responder price is normally $360. The EVZIO received FDA approval.

“It is not a substitute for emergency medical care. It is designed to keep someone alive until help can arrive,” Schwartz said. “We are very passionate about this and am grateful to be able to work with you and the people of the state of Alabama.”

“I understand that our rural communities are often 30 minutes or more away from a hospital,” Dial said. “A majority of the time, volunteer fire and rescue organizations are the first to respond to an opioid overdose. With the hospital 30 minutes away, access to naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses is absolutely essential to saving lives.”

“Drugs legally prescribed that become diverted and entering the drug underworld are frequently tainted so that neither dosage nor potency is known,” McClendon said. “Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and commonly used to lace diverted drugs. Fentanyl is prescribed in micrograms, while opioids are prescribed in milligrams. When lacing opioids with a drug 100 times more powerful, the anticipated high can lead to overdose and all to frequently death.”

McClendon is the chairman of the Senate Health Committee. McClendon is seeking another term but has no primary opponent.

“One of our most valuable tools is to equip emergency responders with antidote medication that can be a matter of life or death for overdose victims,” Marshall said. “This contribution from Kaleo Pharma to provide naloxone for our rural fire departments will make an important difference for the people of Alabama and is greatly appreciated.”

Marshall was appointed attorney general by former Gov. Robert Bentley and is seeking his own term.

Dial said that Kaleo was providing enough doses to equip every volunteer rescue squad truck in the state with one. The rescue squads will need training in the devices and that will begin Friday in Lee County.

Kaleo executives said that the product has a two-year shelf life but by the time they are shipped they have a year left. Kaleo will provide an EVZIO plus replace that initial device twice. This will be a three year supply and the grant has a value of $12 million.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked if the legislature would consider appropriating the money to replace them after those first three years are up.

Dial said that he is leaving the Senate at the end of the year so he can not predict what the legislature would do three or four years from now. The volunteer rescue squads have no money to buy them. Dial expressed hope that the opioid crisis can be solved by then.

Dial is running for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries in the June 5 Republican Primary.

“Treatment and recovery is one of the strategies to help the addicted,” McClendon said. “Addicts can return to a normal life, and once again have a family, a job, friends, and self-esteem. Recovery from the abyss of addiction is not easy but it can be done. But the addict must survive the overdose. Preventing these fatalities allows the option of treatment and recovery.”

“Kaleo Pharma has already saved over 5,000 lives across our nation, their gift to Alabama today will save thousands of Alabamian families the loss and heartache associated from opioid overdoses,” Dial said.

“I want to personally thank Kaleo for their willingness to provide these life-saving devices to our state,” McClendon said.

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