Sep 14, 2023 - News

Overdose antidote Narcan is now available over the counter

A photo of Narcan.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Narcan, a nasal spray that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, became available over the counter at major retailers for the first time this week.

Why it matters: With overdose deaths rising across the country, the Food and Drug Administration reclassified naloxone as a nonprescription medication — but the cost may put it out of reach for those who need it most.

Driving the news: Manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions said it's already begun shipping out the two-dose, 4-milligram spray version of naloxone under the Narcan label to retailers like Walgreens, Walmart and Rite Aid.

Zoom in: Oregon's Legislature approved a bill in August expanding access to naloxone in public buildings, schools and police stations.

Between the lines: A two-dose package of Narcan will retail for $44.99. According to Emily Skogrand, a clinical pharmacist at Oregon Health & Science University, that kind of price creates a barrier.

  • However, Skogrand said pharmacists will still be able to write a prescription for the medication, and with insurance, it typically costs $10 to $50.

Yes, but: The rescue drugs, which are highly effective if administered quickly after an overdose, will only be useful if bystanders feel comfortable using them.

Here are a few ways to recognize an overdose:

  • Loud snoring or gurgling noises
  • A slow or erratic pulse
  • Being unresponsive or unconscious
  • The skin turning pale gray and lips or fingertips turning bluish

If you encounter someone having an overdose, immediately call 911.

  • If you have Narcan, tilt the person's head back and administer the spray in either nostril by firmly pressing the plunger to release the entire dose.
  • If the person remains unconscious, administer a second dose into the opposite nostril and wait for emergency assistance.

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