A team from the University of Cincinnati (UC), led by Michael Lyons, MD, associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UC College of Medicine, will play a major role in a first-of-its-kind naloxone access program and pilot study called the Hamilton County Narcan Distribution Collaborative. The program aims to increase the distribution of naloxone (in the form of Narcan, the nasal spray manufactured by Adapt Pharma) by more than 400 percent in an effort to reduce and prevent opioid-related overdose fatalities across Hamilton County.
Details of the program were unveiled at a news conference at the Hamilton County Public Health Department (HCPH) on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. The collaborative effort is the result of a unique partnership between HCPH, Adapt Pharma, BrightView Health, Interact for Health and the UC College of Medicine. All five major health systems in the region are participating both clinically and financially.
"The ability of naloxone to reverse overdose and save lives is well-known,” said Lyons. "This particular project is expected to benefit from the expertise of our team at the University of Cincinnati in implementing new procedures in health care settings, combining health care and public health efforts in integrated programs and working to assess the impact of health interventions on populations.”
Lyons will lead a Department of Emergency Medicine research team that will analyze the HCPH naloxone distribution effort using existing data and determine whether there is any resulting change in overdose mortality. On the clinical side, the UC Early Intervention Program, led by Lyons and Andrew Ruffner, research associate in the Department of Emergency Medicine, will collaborate with HCPH on how the program is implemented, particularly with respect to health care settings.
The Hamilton County Narcan Distribution Collaborative will build upon existing access strategies by distributing approximately 30,000 doses to new and current partners across the county in hopes reducing by more than 50 percent the number of fatal overdoses and overdoses resulting in admission to intensive care units. Some of the new agencies that will be part of this program include hospital emergency departments, prisons and jails, syringe exchanges and faith-based groups.
"To the Hamilton County Health Department, the University of Cincinnati Emergency Medicine Department, BrightView Health—thanks for your collaboration on this project, as well as all those who made achieving this goal possible,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman by way of video. "Narcan is not the ultimate answer to this crisis. The ultimate answer is to get these people into treatment, into longer-term recovery and back on their feet and I know everybody here today acknowledges that and understands that. In the meantime, we’ve got to save lives.”
According to the Hamilton County Coroner’s office, overdose deaths in Hamilton County have nearly doubled in the past four years and the number of such deaths is on a pace to increase again in 2017.
"We have a moral obligation to try to save people, and naloxone does that,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "There is no sign of this epidemic abating, and the numbers of opioid overdoses would be higher if not for naloxone.”
The program, scheduled to run for two years, is targeted to start in October 2017. Naloxone doses will be distributed in locations in the county that have seen some of the highest rates of overdose, with the resulting data being collected about every three months.
"Through the research component led by Dr. Lyons at the UC College of Medicine, as the data comes in and it’s evaluated according to scientific rigors, we’ll know whether or not it becomes a best practice,” said Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram. "This project is about saving lives, first and foremost, and perhaps can become a model that can be replicated throughout the country in the battle against the disease of opioid addiction.”