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Finding Narcan is supposed to be easy. In Worcester, that’s not always the case

Garry Levitsky is a familiar face at Beacon Pharmacy on Main Street, where he’s served as a pharmacist for an impressive 50 years. His family’s ownership of the pharmacy spans over 80 years, showcasing a deep-rooted commitment to the Main South neighborhood. One topic close to Levitsky’s heart is naloxone, specifically the life-saving nasal spray Narcan, essential in reversing opioid overdoses.

Levitsky has witnessed the grip of the opioid crisis on his community and takes pride in never turning away anyone seeking Narcan during emergencies. His dedication aligns with Massachusetts’ standing order since 2018, allowing pharmacies to sell naloxone without a prescription to those at risk.

However, a recent survey by the Telegram and Gazette in Worcester shed light on disparities in naloxone sales among pharmacies. Only Walmart Supercenter had Narcan openly displayed, while others opted to keep it behind the counter. To address this, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health encouraged retailers to make Narcan more visible, reducing stigma and improving accessibility.

Pharmacies like Worcester Pharmacy and Walgreens have chosen to keep Narcan behind the counter, requiring customers to ask for it. Worcester Pharmacy, selling it for $75, sees an average of four monthly sales. Walgreens prices it at $49.99. CVS at 500 Grafton St. stores Narcan in a locked cabinet due to theft concerns, selling it for $44.99. The CVS at 44 West Boylston St. took a less conventional approach, with the manager directing customers to the front checkout.

Boulevard Pharmaceutical Compounding Center, known for custom medicines, carries Narcan due to state regulations. Owner Kal Boukhatem expressed concern about affordability for Worcester’s low-income community.

Despite these challenges, Massachusetts has distributed over 86,000 free naloxone kits through the Community Naloxone Program, resulting in at least 2,600 overdose reversals in 2023. In Worcester, free Narcan is available in NaloBoxes scattered across the city, providing a crucial lifeline for those in need.

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