GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – CVS Pharmacies will now offer the overdose antidote, Naloxone over the counter without a prescription in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The two states are part of about a dozen where the company announced last month it would be allowing people to get the drug, also known as Narcan, which is a brand name.
"We are absolutely thrilled," said Lexi Reed Holtum who is with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation.
She believes the move will save lives. Advocates, including doctors say Naloxone is safe and effective. It reverses the symptoms of a heroin or a prescription painkiller overdose.
"It has no abuse potential and can do no harm," she said.
Her fiancé, Steve Rummler died of a heroin overdose in 2011. She now helps run the organization named after him, which has pushed for more access to Naloxone.
They helped pass a law that allows first responders and citizens to use Naloxone on someone who is overdosing. The law also gave immunity to people who call 911 for help after witnessing an overdose.
"We know people don't have to die this way. We know other families don't have experience the grief and loss we did," she said.
A spokesperson with CVS said people would be able to get the drug through the pharmacist who most likely would order it and it would arrive the following day.
"While all 7,800 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide can continue to order and dispense naloxone when a prescription is presented, we support expanding naloxone availability without a prescription and are reviewing opportunities to do so in other states," said Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS/pharmacy.
CVS said it's entered into standing order and collaborative practice agreements with prescribers for Naloxone which gives the pharmacies the ability to hand out the medication without patients needing a prescription.
Reed Holtum said training for administering Naloxone is straight-forward and could be done by the pharmacist as the patient picks up the drug.
"The Minnesota Pharmacists Association hasn't really had an opportunity to look at this," said Jeff Lindoo.
Lindoo is the president of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association -- which has no position on this issue -- but he does expect other pharmacies to follow CVS's lead.
"The pharmacist is becoming a much more active member of the health care team," he said.
That's something his organization has advocated for over the years.
The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation is also working with rural pharmacies to provide Naloxone over the counter in those communities.
Rural areas have more overdoses than metro areas, according to Reed Holtums because there are not as many resources in those areas.
The group is also ramping up its efforts to educate the public about the life-saving drug. They will be putting up billboards later this month with education messages.
"We can and will save lives in our country by doing this," she said.
Read CVS Pharmacies entire statement here.