A drug antidote kit containing Narcan at the Long Island...

A drug antidote kit containing Narcan at the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance in Mineola. Credit: Chris Ware, 2012

Drug inventor's

legacy will grow

I took notice of the recent death of Dr. Jack Fishman, a co-developer of the lifesaving medication naloxone. This amazing drug has saved countless people from fatal overdoses of heroin and other narcotics.

Although Fishman and his colleagues developed naloxone in the 1960s, the drug existed in relative obscurity until recently, when the magnitude of the current prescription opioid and heroin epidemic put a spotlight on its ability to miraculously resuscitate.

It's my guess that the value of his legacy will only be heightened as awareness grows that this medication, much like the EpiPen for severe allergic reactions, should widely be available to the public.

Ensuring the wider availability of naloxone is one component of a comprehensive effort launched by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and supported through legislation introduced by Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). In January, the county and the Suffolk County Medical Society will conduct a forum for physicians and other prescribers that will examine how to recognize addiction, safely cease prescribing, and effectively facilitate a treatment referral.

There are also plans to hold a workshop on addiction and security precautions for pharmacists early next year. School districts, community coalitions and law enforcement are being encouraged to use evidence-based prevention strategies and promote the safe disposal of unwanted drugs.

Laypeople can be trained in the administration of naloxone: for example, anyone who wants to be prepared to save the life of a loved one, friend or stranger in need. Instructional workshops will be held in 2014 across the county, and a calendar will be available online.

Art Flescher

HauppaugeEditor's note: The writer is the director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services' Division of Community Mental Hygiene.