Dispense vs. Distribute
Traditionally, a prescriber could only prescribe medication to a person with whom he or she has a patient-provider relationship. However, this arrangement is not practical in the context of naloxone because 1) many of the people at high risk for overdose do not regularly see a prescriber, and 2) naloxone cannot be self-administered when someone is experiencing an overdose; thus, bystanders need to be able to obtain naloxone in order to administer the lifesaving drug.
The Naloxone Access Law (NC General Statute 90-12.7) aims to reduce barriers to getting naloxone into the hands of those who need it by encouraging the adoption and use of standing orders.
The Naloxone Access Law allows medical providers to
- issue standing orders that authorize the dispensing of naloxone to any person who meets the criteria that the law specifies, even if they are not traditional patients of that provider, and
- issue standing orders to organizations to distribute naloxone to any person who meets the criteria that the law specifies, even if they are not traditional patients of that provider.
There are two types of naloxone standing orders in North Carolina:
- Dispensing Standing Orders
- Distribution Standing Orders
What is the difference between dispensing and distribution?
“Dispensing” describes how an individual or a distributing organization comes to possess naloxone is “dispensed” to them by a licensed healthcare professional such as a pharmacist.
“Distribution” comes into play after an organization has naloxone in its possession—after naloxone has been “dispensed” to it. The organization can then “distribute” the naloxone out into the community.
For a more detailed explanation of dispensing standing orders and distribution standing orders, or for guidance on how to create a naloxone distribution program, please see the North Carolina Naloxone Distribution Toolkit.