The rate of drug fatalities has skyrocketed in recent months due to the overwhelming presence of fentanyl. The popular drug is not only 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, but the smallest amount can prove fatal. In an effort to save lives, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved over-the-counter sales of Narcan.
The nasal spray, when used correctly, can reverse opioid overdoses and potentially save lives. Narcan, a spray version of the drug naloxone, blocks the opioid’s effect on one’s brain and restores breathing. Those resuscitated with Narcan should still seek immediate emergency care because the not only can the drug wear off before the body has safely metabolized it, but the sudden reverse side effects (sweating, body aches, vomiting, etc.) can be dramatic.
With wider availability, public health officials are hoping to reduce the high drug fatality rates that have recently swept the nation. By late summer, Narcan could be available in big-box stores, supermarkets, convenience stores and the like.
However, one factor that may prove a deterrent will be the cost of the drug, with many insurance programs not covering the cost of over-the-counter medicines. At the moment, some pharmacies are charging around $100, out of pocket, for the two-dose box of Narcan. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf in a statement encouraged Emergent, the maker of the Narcan, to make the drug available “at an affordable price.”
By providing the drug without a prescription, health officials hope that more individuals will be encouraged to purchase it as a precaution and not be deterred due to the fear of stigma that is associated with it.
“The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has significantly worsened over the last two years with more than 100,000 fatal overdoses in 2022 alone,” says Dr. Edward Kokosinski, ED at Northridge Hospital, Medical Center. “With the FDA having just approved Narcan for over-the-counter use to treat the effects of opioid overdose, this marks a key step in battling this major public health issue, as it continues to spread across all socioeconomic boundaries.”