By Linda B. Blackford

A group from the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy will train pharmacists across the state to distribute naloxone, a medication used to prevent overdoses from heroin and other opioids.

The initiative stems from state legislation this year this year that allows pharmacists, working with doctors, to fill naloxone orders to caregivers and others in their communities without an individual prescription.

The group, Advancing Pharmacy Practice in Kentucky Coalition, developed training programs and protocols for naloxone distribution by pharmacists. The coalition will offer training during a statewide tour in October and November, officials announced Thursday.

"This is game-changing legislation for public health in Kentucky," said Trish Freeman, director of the College of Pharmacy's Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Practice. "The coalition recognized that and worked hard to bring the necessary resources together to ensure Kentucky pharmacists had the proper training to make sure they could fill this important need in our communities."

Last year, more than 1,000 Kentuckians died from overdoses. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids.

About 300 Kentucky pharmacists have been trained on the new naloxone prescription guidelines and protocols. Freeman estimated that 500 more pharmacists will be trained through this initiative.

College of Pharmacy professor and researcher Dan Wermeling developed a nasal spray version of naloxone through his startup company, AntiOp Inc., and he frequently testified in front of the General Assembly about the need to distribute naloxone more widely into communities.

"This project is a great example of pharmacists putting patients first," Wermeling said. "This college began its work in naloxone because we saw how opioid overdose was wreaking havoc on Kentucky communities. We approached this as a public health problem, and we sought to leverage the resources and capacity we have at the college to help save lives right here in the commonwealth."

In addition to the UK College of Pharmacy, the coalition partners include the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy, the Kentucky Society of Health-System Pharmacists, American Pharmacy Services Corp. and the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy.

The coalition's statewide tour began Tuesday at the METS Center in Erlanger.

(c)2015 the Lexington Herald-Leader