The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the nasal spray that treats fentanyl and opioid overdoses as it happens for over-the-counter use — which means it can be sold in vending machines and big box stores.
The Food and Drug Administration said Narcan, a nasal spray that quickly reverses opioid overdoses, can now be sold over the counter.
The approval announced Wednesday caps a long battle public health officials and addiction medicine experts have waged to make the antidote more readily available, a move they said would save hundreds of thousands of lives.
“Today’s approval of the over-the-counter naloxone nasal spray will help improve access to naloxone, increase the number of locations where it is available, and help reduce opioid overdose deaths across the country,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Calif.
Narcan could become available in large retail stores, vending machines, supermarkets, and convenience stores as soon as this summer.
A panel of outside experts voted unanimously last month to expand access to the drug in hopes of avoiding another record-setting year for fatal drug overdoses.
Narcan is already available over the counter in all 50 states, as state leaders have issued standing orders for pharmacists to sell the drug to anyone who asks for it.
But not all pharmacies carry it, and those who do should keep it behind the counter. And even without the need for a doctor’s order, many people feel reluctant to approach a pharmacist for medication, wary of the dangers associated with drug misuse.
The FDA’s leadership can’t guarantee that a drug will be free or even cheap. The cost of a single naloxone rescue kit ranges from about $22 to $60 for nasal kits. Pricing is determined by Narcan’s manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions.
Dr. Cliff He said: “We encourage the manufacturer to make access to the product a priority by making it available as soon as possible at an affordable price.”
Narcan, also known as naloxone, is an opioid antagonist. It is used by inserting the nozzle of the medication into the nose and spraying it.
The spray is impressively effective. A recent study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts found just that More than 93 percent of people He survived a naloxone overdose.
When inhaled, the drug is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the nose, rapidly enters the bloodstream and is transported to the brain.
Once there, the drug competes with opioids, which attach themselves to receptors in the brain. It binds to brain receptors to replace opiates.
This limits the effects of opioids on the brain, and stops the overdose from progressing.
It is also very easy for the average person to use without medical training.
Easy access to a nasal spray has never been more important. Among the huge amount of confirmed overdose deaths over the past two years, exacerbated by the pandemic, the vast majority have been due to the synthetic opiate fentanyl.
Of the approximately 107,000 confirmed deaths in 2021, nearly 70 percent are attributed to fentanyl.
It is a common adulterant drug that is highly potent and deadly in large doses. The equivalent of five grains of salt from synthetic opium is enough to cause death.
The drug is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s relatively cheap and easy to smuggle into the United States, and it’s cost-effective for merchants to mix it into their supplies, which saves them money and can expand or enhance users’ higher experience.
But many users don’t even know they’re taking fentanyl when they buy their medication. It is now found in everything from cocaine to molly and street benzodiazepines such as Xanax.