You Will Be Able to Buy Narcan OTC

FDA gives the thumbs-up for drug to be sold over the counter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 29, 2023 8:41 AM CDT
FDA Approves OTC Narcan
The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed, Dec. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. The Food and Drug Administration has approved selling overdose antidote naloxone over-the-counter, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, marking the first time a opioid treatment drug will be available without a prescription.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The FDA on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, setting the overdose-reversing drug on course to become the first opioid treatment drug to be sold over the counter. It’s a move that some advocates have long sought as a way to improve access to a life-saving drug, reports the AP, though the exact impact will not be clear immediately. Here’s a look at the issues involved:

  • The approved branded nasal spray Narcan from Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions is the best-known form of naloxone. It can reverse overdoses of opioids, including street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl and prescription versions including oxycodone.
  • Making naloxone available more widely is seen as a key strategy to control the nationwide overdose crisis, which has been linked to more than 100,000 US deaths a year. The majority of those deaths are tied to opioids, primarily potent synthetic versions such as fentanyl that can take multiple doses of naloxone to reverse.
  • Advocates believe it's important to get naloxone to the people who are most likely to be around overdoses, including people who use drugs and their relatives. Police and other first responders also often carry it.

  • Narcan will become available over-the-counter by late summer, the company said.
  • Other brands of naloxone and injectable forms will not yet be available over the counter, but they could be soon. The nonprofit Harm Reduction Therapeutics Inc., which has funding from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, has an application before the FDA to distribute its version of spray naloxone without a prescription.
  • Even before the FDA's action, pharmacies could sell naloxone without a prescription because officials in every state have allowed it. But not every pharmacy carries it. And buyers have to pay for the medication—either with an insurance co-pay or for the full retail price. The cost varies, but two doses of Narcan often go for around $50.
  • Emergent has not announced its price, and it's not clear yet whether insurers will continue to cover it as a prescription drug if it's available over the counter.
(More Narcan stories.)

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