CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Janice Charity has a lot of pain from two fusion procedures — one in her lower back and the other in her neck. So the Chesapeake resident’s taken the pain medicine hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin, for several years.

But lately she was also prescribed Naloxone, also known as Narcan. It’s an effective drug if you’re having an opioid overdose.

“I have no need for Narcan, none at all,” Charity says.

But for certain prescriptions — depending on the quantity and potency of the drug — a new state law now requires that the provider prescribe Narcan along with it, just in case the patient would overdose.

It’s based on the amount of morphine milligram equivalents, or MME, for a particular prescription. MME is a function of the type of drug and the amount a patient takes each day. If the prescription’s MME rating equals or exceeds 120, then your provider is required by law in Virginia to prescribe Narcan along with it. 

Calculating MME gets complicated because different drugs have different ratings. Here’s a resource from the Centers for Disease Control on how it works. In any case, your doctor will know the rating for your particular prescription.

If the pain prescription is potent enough to fall into the new guidelines, the doctor must prescribe the Narcan, but the patient doesn’t have to fill it.

So what happened to Janice’s Narcan prescription?

“It’s pending at Walgreen’s,” she says, but will likely stay there.

She’s on a fixed income and has insurance, but she got some sticker shock on the initial quote for her co-pay. She complained and was able to get a better deal.

“It was $230, and then it went down to $125, and then the last time in December to $47. There are those who may go ahead and try to pay it because the doctor says I need it. I am not one of those persons.”

Charity says some people will actually want to have Narcan around — just in case of an overdose. She says she’s looking for ways to get the cost down to nothing, especially for anyone on a fixed income.