One Man’s Effort to Tame the Opioid Crisis
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One Man’s Effort to Tame the Opioid Crisis

Little Five Points hero. “I have had three episodes in the last three weeks and saved all three,” said Katz

Marcia Caller Jaffe

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

Ira Katz set up a pharmacy in Little Five Points 37 years ago.
Ira Katz set up a pharmacy in Little Five Points 37 years ago.

Ira Katz picked the Little Five Points area to open his independent drug store 37 years ago. Now he is saving lives by his own actions and by spreading the word in his industry and among private citizens that the Narcan device, an emergency nasal spray or injectable, can be bought without a prescription to reverse drug overdoses.
“I have had three episodes in the last three weeks and saved all three,” Katz said.
Local residents know to go or take others to the Little Five Points Pharmacy if an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) cannot be located quickly.

Narcan can be bought without a prescription to reverse drug overdoses.

Read how Katz views his mission and how he is striving to make a difference:

Jaffe: How did a New Yorker like you end up here?
Katz: After pharmacy school, my wife and I loaded the car and headed to Atlanta. I joined a chain (Reed Drugs) at West Paces Ferry and later Howell Mill. They were smart to put a Jewish guy in a Jewish area. Eventually I sought opportunities to open an independent pharmacy. I didn’t want suburbia. I saw Little Five Points as a good fit.
It’s vibrant and young people are continuing to move in. At age 64, I work 50 to 60 hours a week. We sell everything from candy to commodes.

Jaffe: How does the device work?
Katz: Narcan (naloxone) comes in two forms: Nasal spray ($150 to $195) and an injectable, which is only $25 to $35. I would call it a narcotic antagonist to opioids. It binds to the receptors and literally rejects the overdose. Sometimes CPR is needed, but in my last few situations, it has not been. I have hopped into the backseat of a car and done the injection. By the way, it is protected by the Good Samaritan Law (meaning you can’t be sued if you intervene). Some insurance companies cover it.

Jaffe: How are you spreading the word about the availability and ease of use?
Katz: I speak at state and national conferences to other pharmacists. I want everyone to be aware if they think they have a friend or family member using drugs, it is wise to keep it on hand. Note that some overdoses are from legal opioid pain killer/ medications. We also know that children unfortunately get into adult medicine cabinets to access drugs.
It’s “buyer beware” if users are securing drugs on the street when they don’t know with what it could be laced. Heroin, cocaine, fentanyl. It’s all very dangerous roulette.
People come into the pharmacy here and give me hug. So we are trying our best to open eyes: 63,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2016, 1394 of those were Georgians. “Police have been using Narcan for years. ‘Regular’ people need to be ready to save lives.”

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