By: Jordan Park
Narcan, the life-saving opioid overdose antidote, is now available nationwide with no prescription needed.
The antidote is the nasal spray version of naloxone, a drug that rapidly reverses overdoses. The antidote reverses the effects of opioids in the brain and restores normal breathing. Narcan packages contain two spray plunges, each containing four-milligram doses. Experts advise people not to test the spray as the whole dose is necessary for the drug to be successful. It is equally safe to use on someone who has fallen unconscious due to an overdose and someone who is suspected of having an overdose. The drug should reverse the effects within two to three minutes, although severe drug cases may require a second dose. Prescription Narcan is already widely used and carried by various first responders, as well as distributed by groups dedicated to reducing the dangers of overdoses.
The Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter use in March of 2023. The antidote is now available in stores such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, and CVS and is also available online. Depending on the store, it will be available in the medication aisle or at the checkout counter. The drug will not require a doctor’s prescription, making the distribution of the antidote much easier. While this is a substantial first step, it does not solve the problem completely. Some public health officials argue that the 45-dollar price point will be too high for regular drug users, who are most at risk of overdosing.
Most insurance companies will not cover over-the-counter medicine such as Narcan. However, in most states, Medicare will cover most, if not the entire cost of the drug. Less expensive alternatives are already popping up all across the market, costing as low as 10 dollars. Numerous organizations, including the non-profit Remedy Alliance, supply the liquid version of the drug for free or for four dollars a dose. This organization works to lower the cost of naloxone products in pharmacies and provide low-cost programs for everyone.
While the device is relatively easy to use, experts urge the public to educate themselves on how to administer it. Instructions and videos are available on various websites outlining the necessary steps required before and after administering the antidote. Public officials now hope that Narcan will become a staple in cabinets, dorms, and even vending machines as the opioid epidemic continues to worsen. Overdoses are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and have been for many years. There have been an estimated 100,000 overdose fatalities each year, primarily from the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl.
(Sources: ABC, NBC, New York Times, The Washington Post)