Narcan, a life-saving medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, is set to become available over-the-counter in drugstores across the country. This move comes as a response to the ongoing opioid crisis that has affected every county in the United States.
The medication, also known as naloxone, was approved for over-the-counter purchase by the FDA in March and has since been shipped to various stores and online retailers. Walgreens, a major pharmacy chain, recently announced that they will stock Narcan online starting on September 5, with nationwide availability on September 7. The suggested retail price for two doses of Narcan is $44.99.
This is a significant development as Narcan is the first opioid overdose reversal medication to be sold without a prescription. It is expected to provide greater accessibility to a drug that has proven to reduce opioid-related deaths nationwide. Previously, naloxone was available at pharmacies without a prescription, but not all pharmacies carried it. Now, consumers will have the convenience of picking up the drug off the shelves themselves or obtaining a ticket to bring to the counter for retrieval and purchase.
Naloxone works by blocking the effects of opioids on receptors in the brain and can restore normal breathing within minutes. It is crucial for everyone, even those who are not directly involved with drug users, to carry naloxone and know how to use it. Recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose, such as pale or clammy face, blue or purple fingernails or lips, slowed or stopped breathing, and an inability to speak or be awakened, is essential in providing timely assistance.
The wider availability of Narcan in drugstores will help ensure that the general population is aware of and has access to naloxone. Many overdose deaths occur while another person is present, which emphasizes the need for widespread distribution of this life-saving medication.
Despite the positive impact of over-the-counter availability, some challenges remain. The cost of Narcan, priced at $45, can be prohibitive for some individuals. Vouchers or coupons may provide a solution to lower the cost, and local harm reduction programs should continue to distribute free naloxone kits to vulnerable communities.
There is also concern over the presentation of Narcan in stores. Customers may be deterred if the medication is locked behind a display. However, Walgreens has assured that they will not use locked cases and will require customers to retrieve a card from the shelves and bring it to the register or pharmacy for purchase.
In addition to Narcan, the FDA has also approved another emergency treatment for opioid overdose called RiVive for over-the-counter use. This alternative is expected to be available in early 2024, which may alleviate concerns regarding cost and accessibility.
Overall, the easier access to naloxone through over-the-counter availability is anticipated to lead to a reduction in fatal overdoses. However, it is crucial to address remaining challenges such as affordability and proper presentation in stores. With concerted efforts, it is hoped that the availability of naloxone will make a significant impact in combating the ongoing opioid crisis.