Narcan Approved for OTC Sales

FDA’s move could save more lives by providing wider access to overdose medication
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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By late summer, over-the-counter Narcan could be sold in big-box chains, vending machines, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and even online retailers.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Narcan, a prescription nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses, to be sold over the counter, The New York Times reported. The newspaper noted that public-health officials and treatment experts had long sought OTC approval in the hope that wider availability of the medicine would reduce drug fatalities. There were more than 100,000 drug-related deaths in the United States for each of the past two years, according to FDA.

As indicated by the Times, by late summer, over-the-counter Narcan could be sold in big-box chains, vending machines, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and even online retailers. Narcan is a nasal spray version of the drug naloxone, which blocks an opioid’s effect on the brain.

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Currently, laws in every state permit pharmacists to have a standing prescription so they can dispense Narcan or a generic brand to anyone who asks for it. However, many pharmacies opt not to do so, preferring not to address cases of illicit drug use, particularly without a doctor’s supervision. Of the nearly 17 million naloxone doses distributed in 2021, just 2.64 million came from pharmacies, the Times noted, citing a recent report.

Although OTC status will theoretically make it easier to obtain Narcan, the medicine’s cost could be a barrier.

“We are dedicated to improving public health and assisting those working hard to end the opioid crisis — so now with leaders across government, retail and advocacy groups, we must work together to continue increasing access and availability, as well as educate the public on the risks of opioid overdoses and the value of being prepared with Narcan to help save a life,” said Robert G. Kramer, CEO of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Emergent BioSolutions, which manufactures the nasal spray, although he declined to reveal a price for the OTC version.

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