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Over-the-counter sales of Narcan to begin this week

The nasal spray is the first FDA approved over-the-counter medicine to reverse opioid overdose.
FDA approved over-the-counter med Narcan to reverse opioid overdose
Posted at 3:11 PM, Sep 05, 2023

The purple pinwheel in Michelle Leopold’s front yard symbolizes overdose awareness. She’s a "tough mother" fighting against fentanyl. Her first-born son Trevor  died when he was only 18 years old in his dorm room, after taking what he believed to be an oxycodone pill that was, unbeknownst to him, laced with fentanyl.

Leopold told Scripps News about Trevor. He was always an adventurous eater; by age 4 he loved sushi and brussel sprouts. 

"He always was inquisitive and loved to know how things worked, love to learn about animals, about rocks, anything, nature. I do feel like he is here supporting me in this activism," said Leopold. 

This week, Narcan rolls off the production line and onto drugstore shelves. The nasal spray is the first FDA approved over-the-counter medicine to reverse opioid overdose. 

It comes as 3 in 10 U.S. adults say someone in their family has been addicted to opioids, according to  health policy research firm KFF.  

More than 109,000 Americans died from a drug overdose last year according to the CDC.

"In early September, you should start seeing it in the big retailers like Walgreens and Walmart. And as we go through the month of September, access and availability of Narcan will continue to spread to regional grocery stores, independent pharmacies and the like," said Matt Hartwig, a spokesperson for Emergent BioSolutions, manufacturer of Narcan.

SEE MORE: Overdose-reversal drug Narcan to hit store shelves next week

So now, when you go into the pharmacy, for just under $50 you can get a box of Narcan that includes two doses. But advocates worry that it may still be too expensive for some. 

"If it's going to be something they don't have necessarily somebody in their immediate circle that they're concerned about, they just want to be a good samaritan that's doing the right thing, I think that $44.99 is pretty expensive. For a lot of people. It's going to be a barrier. A lot of people. We have people who work regular 9-to-5 bank, I.T. and other jobs. They can afford Narcan at the pharmacy, but many cannot," said Leopold. 

Chris Brown runs a harm reduction program in Northern California, one of many that distributes free Narcan and generic naloxone. They can give out about 180 boxes a week. 

"Here in Marin County, out of a population of about 265,000, it's about every six days that somebody fatally overdoses," said Brown. 

He says fentanyl is a razor's edge with tiny margin for error, but more naloxone access is a big step, helping fight stigma and save lives.  

Manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions expects widespread availability by the end of September. 

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