How CVS pharmacies are trying to stop fatal heroin overdoses with an over-the-counter remedy

New Jersey
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WAYNE, N.J. — Tito and Linda Lajterman sold their split-level home in Ramsey, New Jersey within months of finding their 19-year-old son, Danny, dead at the desk in his bedroom in February 2014.

“I saw him slumped over his computer, actually,” Danny’s father, Tito, recalled. “I called him, ‘Danny! Danny! What’s going on?’” The still-grieving dad added, “His face was bloated.”

Danny’s mother, Linda, is a registered nurse and, when she saw his face was blue, she said, “I knew he was gone.”

When emergency responders rushed in and took Danny Lajterman away, his stunned parents learned there was evidence in the room that their youngest child had snorted heroin.

Toxicology reports showed the heroin was mixed with fentanyl, a pain reliever often used by cancer patients.

Tito and Linda Lajterman told PIX 11 they didn’t even know Danny was using drugs, much less heroin.

Danny had played football for Ramsey High School, and they later learned a teammates’ father—Darius Gharary—had sold Danny the fatal drug cocktail that killed him.

Gharary, who was allegedly dealing from his home in Upper Saddle River, is now charged with drug-liability death.

Linda Lajterman wrote a book called “Life After You: What Your Death From Drugs Leaves Behind,” and she shared her family’s story, as PIX11 Investigates reported a new development in the battle against heroin and painkiller overdoses.

CVS Pharmacies all over the Garden State are now making a drug called naloxone available without a prescription. Naloxone is often called a “miracle drug”—because a single spray in each nostril can stop a heroin overdose in its tracks— allowing a user to start breathing again and regain consciousness.

People who want to buy the drug can order it at a price of $40 to $50 dollars at CVS.

CVS initially started dispensing naloxone over the counter in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where the opioid epidemic was having a profound impact.

Now, pharmacies in twelve additional states—including New Jersey—have been added to the mix by CVS.

The statistics on fatal, heroin overdoses in New Jersey are staggering.

Fatal ODs in Bergen County, where Ramsey is located, were up 253% between 2010 and 2014. Factoring in the entire state, fatalities were up 155% between 2010 and 2014.

Despite an explosion of heroin deaths in New York in recent years, naloxone is still not available over the counter in the Empire State.

Teri Kroll of Suffolk County, who lost her son, Tim, to a heroin overdose at home in 2009, received training to administer Naloxone, also known by the brand name, Narcan.

She gave a dose to a young man who was passed out, in his car, at a traffic light—and got him breathing again.

“And I saw how it works!” Kroll told PIX11. “In 15 seconds, this young man was awake and talking.”

Some CVS customers we met outside one pharmacy in Ramsey, New Jersey were concerned the availability of Naloxone might just inspire heroin abusers to keep on using.

“Obviously, the downside is that it could encourage kids to use it,” said customer, Marissa Murphy, “because now they have a way out.”

Linda Lajterman hopes the young people she reaches with her book will never find a way in.

She is brutally honest about the consequences for some who survive a heroin overdose, with severe damage.

“You can have blindess; you can wind up in a wheelchair,” Lajterman said she tells them. “I talk to them about, ‘Listen, you’re going to wear diapers the rest of your life; you won’t be able to drive a car.’”

The images Lajterman leaves the teens with are profoundly disturbing, but if she can get them to reconsider experimenting with painkillers and heroin, she feels she did a good thing.

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