Pharmacies across Michigan will be giving away free naloxone kits on Saturday in an effort to stem the tide of overdose deaths resulting from the ongoing opioid crisis. More than 50,000 of the emergency overdose-reversing drug kits, sold under the brand name Narcan, will be distributed free of charge through hundreds of pharmacies, according to media reports.

A list of pharmacies participating in the naloxone giveaway is available online. More than 3,000 additional naloxone kits will be available at the Michigan Celebrate Recovery Walk and Rally, to be held in Belle Island, Michigan on Saturday morning. Additional information about the event is available online.

The naloxone kits, which contain two doses of the drug in nasal spray applicators, are available to anyone who requests them. The kits may be picked up anonymously without a prescription, which is not required for naloxone in Michigan.

The naloxone kits being given away on Saturday were purchased by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with grant money received from the federal government.

Naloxone Saves Lives

The administration of naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose. Health experts in Michigan believe that increased availability of the emergency drug in the state is at least partly responsible for a 3.7% decline in opioid deaths in the state last year.

In 2018, there were 2,591 overdose deaths in Michigan, down from the 2,690 deaths recorded the previous year, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year there were 68,557 overdose deaths reported nationwide, which was down 5% from 72,224 deaths in 2017. Of those deaths, 47,590 involved the use of opioids, most frequently synthetic opioids including fentanyl, which can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

The opioid crisis, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S., has been blamed largely on the aggressive marketing tactics of drug manufacturers. Michigan is currently a part of talks to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, in a deal reported to be worth up to $12 billion.

The proposed settlement would strip ownership of Purdue Pharma from the billionaire Sackler family, the 19th richest family in the U.S., according to Forbes, and thrust the company into bankruptcy. The family would contribute up to $3 billion of their own money and the company would emerge from bankruptcy as a for-profit trust, with proceeds going to the plaintiffs of the thousands of suits brought by state and local governments.

Some plaintiffs have argued that the settlement is not large enough to compensate for the harm caused by the actions of Purdue Pharma, while others say a threatened bankruptcy of the company if the settlement isn’t agreed to would mean even less money for plaintiffs.

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