WILKES-BARRE — The state’s top doctor visited Wilkes-Barre on Friday to tout the antidote that reverses the effects of overdoses from opioid drugs like heroin.
Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s physician general and acting secretary of health, urged loved ones of addicts to obtain naloxone from their local pharmacy.
Levine issued a standing order in 2015 to allow anyone in the state to obtain naloxone without a prescription. It’s the only such universal prescription she has approved since being appointed to the job in January 2015.
“That’s how important this is,” Levine said Friday while visiting Wilkes-Barre Fire Department headquarters.
Levine said more than 4,000 lives have been saved since naloxone distribution became widespread with members of the public. Previously, only medical professionals and emergency responders had the life-saving drug.
“This is a complete nonpartisan issue,” Levine said. “Everyone deserves to have their lives saved.”
Officials said 13 Pennsylvanians are dying each day from opioid overdoses and that number is rising as drugs exponentially stronger than heroin — fentanyl and the large-animal tranquilizer carfentanil — are hitting the streets.
Those new, more powerful drugs being mixed with heroin are so potent that emergency responders risk cardiac arrest just by touching it, Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney said.
“Emergency Services simply cannot keep up with this nationwide epidemic,” Delaney said. “At this stage, we are losing the opioid battle in the streets. I see the number of opioid deaths continuing to climb at an alarming rate if we don’t receive some help.”
The city’s fire department used 200 doses of naloxone in the first half of 2017, the chief said, noting some people needed multiple doses to be revived.
Sometimes those people get upset with their life savers, he said.
“Most of the time, they are…