According to reports, Narcan, a vital medication designed to reverse opioid overdoses, is set to become readily accessible on drugstore shelves and online platforms across the United States starting next week. This initiative is expected to provide a significant boost to combating the alarming rise in overdose deaths, particularly due to potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
The nasal spray version of naloxone, known as Narcan, will be obtainable at major retail outlets such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, and CVS. The suggested retail price for a box containing two doses will be $44.99, according to the drug manufacturer’s announcement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to Emergent BioSolutions for their overdose-reversing antidote in response to the escalating number of overdose-related fatalities. Walgreens’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kevin Ban, expressed the sentiment that Narcan should be a staple in everyone’s first aid kit due to its potential to save lives. He emphasized its broad applicability, stressing the importance of having naloxone on hand in case someone encounters an individual experiencing an overdose.
The availability of Narcan without a prescription is not entirely new; most U.S. states had already established standing orders allowing pharmacies and qualified entities to distribute this antidote to those at risk. However, this latest development greatly enhances accessibility to this life-saving medication. Narcan has the ability to revive a person who is overdosing within minutes of administration.
Maya Doe-Simkins, co-director of Remedy Alliance/For the People, a group focused on improving access to affordable naloxone, welcomed the over-the-counter availability of this vital drug. However, she acknowledged that the bulk purchase of naloxone by organizations and governments has been the primary source for most people, underscoring the evidence-backed approach that has proven effective in saving lives.
The move to offer Narcan without a prescription also brings about affordability advantages for various entities. Community organizations, first responders, state and local governments, and harm reduction groups can purchase Narcan at a lower price than the general public—$41 per two-dose package.
Additionally, the introduction of another naloxone nasal spray called RiVive is on the horizon. The nonprofit organization Harm Reduction Therapeutics plans to offer it at cost—$36 for a two-pack—beginning in early 2024.
However, it’s worth noting that there may still be some barriers to accessing Narcan, despite its availability. While CVS intends to offer it both behind the pharmacy counter and at the register, Walmart and Rite Aid plan to place it in the pain care aisles. Walgreens will utilize cards that customers can retrieve from shelves and bring to the register to obtain the medication more discreetly.
Critics, including Doe-Simkins, acknowledge that even these seemingly minor barriers might dissuade some individuals from accessing the medication, emphasizing that any additional steps could be considered as obstacles. Nonetheless, the broader availability of over-the-counter Narcan has been long-awaited by the community, marking a significant step forward in addressing the opioid crisis.