Narcan closer to being available over the counter after FDA panel approval

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 17:58:41-05

(WXYZ) — There may be fewer lives lost to opioid overdoses in the near future. Advisors to the FDA have recommended that Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote, be made available over the counter.

Right now, Narcan is sold as a prescription. Although some states have workarounds that allow residents to get the drug from pharmacists. But the drug is kept behind the counter, so overall, it’s not easily accessible to the general public.

Now, the main reason why the advisory committee voted in favor of this antidote being sold without a prescription, is because over a million Americans have died due to drug overdoses. And that’s just in the last two decades.

Unfortunately, a good chunk of those overdoses was due to opioids. On top of that, opioid overdoses are the number one cause of accidental death. Just in 2021 alone, there were more than 80,000 accidental deaths in the US because of opioids. Most of these are adults, but sadly children and teens are dying too. Close to nine thousand kids died between 1999 and 2016 due to opioid poisoning. And research found that many teenagers who overdosed ended up doing so at home. But Narcan was only administered in 1 out of every 3 of these cases.

So having the drug more widely available over the counter could potentially save quite a few lives.

Narcan is a nasal spray. It works very fast to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, including fentanyl, prescription painkillers, and heroin. But it needs to be given right away. The medicine works by attaching to opioid receptors and blocking the drug’s effect on the brain. It also restores breathing.

Now, the generic name for Narcan is Naloxone. And the version being considered as an over-the-counter product would come in a package of two 4-milligram doses. You typically only need one dose to reverse most overdoses. But the reason why there would be two doses is in case one doesn’t work or if it’s been incorrectly administered.

As for it being used in advance to prevent an overdose – no, it doesn’t work that way. Plus, it also won’t work on any other drug overdoses.

Regardless, this opioid antidote has been proven to save lives. It can be given to anyone, including children. So I expect that the FDA will agree with its advisor panel. However, we won’t know until March 29th.

If approved, the Naloxone nasal spray could be available for purchase in gas stations, grocery stores, and even vending machines. It’ll likely be sold in places where people can easily find it.

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