Penn Dental Medicine Adds Training in Use of Intranasal Naloxone to Opioids Education


Penn Dental is training students and faculty on the science and application of intranasal naloxone as part of ongoing efforts to keep them informed and engaged in addressing the opioid crisis.

Philadelphia — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that on average 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Yet, when an overdose emergency does occur, prompt action can save lives. That was the message to Penn Dental Medicine students at the first of a series of lectures on the only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone to counteract the life-threatening effects in an opioid overdose, part of the School’s ongoing efforts to keep students and faculty informed and engaged in addressing the opioid crisis.

Approximately 150 Penn Dental Medicine students attended the August 24 presentation on the science and application of intranasal naloxone by ADAPT Pharma®, the manufacturers of NARCAN® (naloxone HCl) Nasal Spray, the leading FDA-approved emergency treatment for opioid overdose, to health agencies, first responders, and retail pharmacies. Additional lectures are planned to ensure all DMD students as well as postdoctoral students and faculty members will be trained in the use of this delivery system.

“Unfortunately, this is the epidemic of our time, and it does not discriminate,” say Dr. Mark Wolff, Morton Amsterdam Dean of Penn Dental Medicine. “We have been teaching our students how to reduce opioid prescriptions as practitioners, but with this training, we are taking it a step further. As healthcare providers, we need to be trained on how to manage an emergency whether our patient or not. Our students are out in the community, and we want them equipped to respond — one of them may save a life.”

Designed for easy delivery with a spray in the nostril, the intranasal naloxone is given right away should an individual overdose with an opioid or show signs of a possible opioid overdose with breathing problems and severe sleepiness or not being able to respond. ADAPT Pharma® stresses that the spray does not take the place of emergency medical care, which should be called immediately after administration, but it temporarily reverses the effects of opioids.

In Pennsylvania and many other states, intranasal naloxone is available without a prescription, directly from a pharmacist. The cost will vary depending upon an individual’s insurance. One Penn Dental Medicine student reports that with the health insurance she receives through the School, the co-pay for NARCAN® Nasal Spray at a local pharmacy was $40 for two doses with shelf life of approximately two years.

“Our students and faculty may have friends and family with opioids in the home and have concerns within the community at large. It’s important to make them aware of the protocols for use and the ease of access should they choose to acquire the spray,” notes Dean Wolff. Penn Dental Medicine is exploring adding intranasal naloxone to the School’s emergency crash carts.

“The ease of administration and safety of this drug also make it particularly beneficial in alleviating any apprehension someone may have in an emergency situation,” adds Dr. Elliot Hersh, Professor of Pharmacology at Penn Dental Medicine. “If by chance a patient is unconscious with poor ventilation for some other reason like an alcohol overdose or insulin shock, the naloxone won’t make it worse.”

Hersh has been a leader in the study of non-addicting pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium for postsurgical dental pain and lectures extensively on the topic. “Over the past five years, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the opioids prescribed by dentists,” says Hersh, “but that is not going to help the many people that are currently misusing and are addicted to these drugs and are at significant risk for overdose and death. Our students must be prepared to deal with opioid overdose situations outside the School, and in the future, their practices, and intranasal naloxone is a potential life saver.”

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