PROMO Health - Naloxone NARCAN Opioid Drug - iStock - NewGig86

Feds OK over the counter sales of overdose-reversing drug

© iStock - NewGig86
Mike Moen

(Minnesota News Connection) States continue to grapple with recent spikes in fatal overdoses tied to opioids. Now, a federal agency has taken what aid groups say is a big step in preventing such deaths.

This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of the nasal version of naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Sold under the brand name Narcan, the product has only been available through a prescription.

Minnesota recently recorded a 44 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths.

Maddy Reagan, overdose prevention manager for the Steve Rummler HOPE Network, pointed out in 2021, there were nearly 5,000 nonfatal overdoses.

"So what that said to me is that Naloxone is having an important impact in keeping people alive," Reagan explained.

The FDA said its action paves the way for the lifesaving medication to be sold directly in places beyond pharmacies, such as grocery stores and gas stations, as well as online.

Reagan and various medical organizations worry about the cost, potentially still keeping it out of reach for many individuals. The drug's manufacturer declined to comment on what the new price structure would look like.

Currently, Narcan doses typically cost around $130 for those without insurance. Reagan emphasized the price forces harm-reduction groups to focus on certain strategies to distribute the product to those who need it. 

"We primarily distribute intramuscular Naloxone, because it's significantly less expensive," Reagan noted. "We're able to get high volumes out into the community."

Intramuscular Naloxone involves injections, and some health agencies say the nasal form is easier to use and more appealing for those worried about using needles. As for the prescription requirement, many states, including Minnesota, have already adopted laws to make it easier for an individual to obtain the medication from a pharmacist.