Published by Chicago Tribune

Patients who receive prescriptions for opioid painkillers at some Chicago-area hospitals might soon walk away with an additional prescription — for a drug meant to help them if they overdose.

In January, west suburban hospital system Edward-Elmhurst Health plans to start recommending its doctors prescribe naloxone with certain dosages of opioids. Naloxone, which is often sold under the brand name Narcan, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. When doctors prescribe certain doses of opioids, Edward-Elmhurst’s electronic system will prompt them to also check a box to prescribe naloxone.

Edward-Elmhurst might not be alone for long. Amita Health’s primary care doctors group of more than 130 physicians is considering co-prescribing naloxone and opioids and is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks, said Dr. Gregory Teas, chief of psychiatry for the Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Institute.

The changes come amid an epidemic of opioid abuse in Illinois and across the country. Hospitals and doctors have been trying a number of tactics and treatments to prevent deadly overdoses, including co-prescribing opioids and naloxone. Though questions remain about how many patients will fill those naloxone prescriptions, given their price, and whether they’ll actually use the overdose antidote, many Illinois physicians are eager to give anything that might save more lives a try.