(New throughout, adds details on naloxone program, background on overdoses, comment from representative of Walgreens)
May 17 (Reuters) - Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is making the opioid antidote naloxone available without a prescription in all its pharmacies in New Mexico, part of a plan to make the drug readily available in 35 states by the end of this year.
Naloxone, administered by injection or nasal spray, can be used in the event of an overdose to reverse the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. The Obama administration has been funding expanded distribution of naloxone amid a growing epidemic of addiction to opioid drugs in the United States.
The drugstore chain has already made naloxone available without a prescription in Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
In 2014, a record number of Americans died from drug overdoses. New Mexico had one of the highest rates of overdose deaths, along with West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.
In March, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed a bill into law that expands access to naloxone, allowing it to be available in more than 70 Walgreens pharmacies throughout the state. The law also protects those who administer naloxone from civil liability and criminal prosecution.
“Walgreens’ expansion of medications access in northern New Mexico and throughout the state will make it easier for families to help their loved ones suffering from addiction,” said Richard Martinez, a Democratic member of the state Senate.
Approximately 78 people die in the United States every day due to drug overdose, with half of those deaths related to prescription opioid pain medications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We want to make sure that we work together with all the states in accordance with each state’s pharmacy regulations and make this life saving drug available to all,” a representative of Walgreens said.
Naloxone manufacturers include Pfizer Inc’s Hospira unit and Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru and Mir Ubaid in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)