COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — There is a first in the fight against the drug overdose epidemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Wednesday it has approved Narcan for over-the-counter use, making it the first naloxone product people will be able to get without a prescription.
“I think many of us who care for individuals with opioid use disorder are sighing a sigh of relief today knowing the FDA has finally approved this life-saving medication for over-the-counter use,” said Dr. Trent Hall, an addiction medicine specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Narcan is a medication delivered by nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses. Emergent BioSolutions, the company which makes Narcan, said it should be available over the counter by late summer, with the FDA saying it will be available at drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations.
“You might imagine an accidental drug overdose that happens near a gas station,” Hall said. “This actually happens very frequently in our community. Having Narcan on the shelf at the gas station is a tremendous advantage which we hope will save lives.”
More than 101,750 people died from overdoses from October 2021 to October 2022, according to the FDA. Numbers from the Franklin County Coroner’s Office show there were 790 fatal overdoses in the county in 2022. That number may increase pending certification of remaining overdose deaths for 2022, according to a report from the coroner’s office.
“We’ve lost that person at every holiday dinner table, we’ve lost that person in the workforce, we’ve lost that person in the community,” Hall said.
While Narcan has been available at many health departments and through other community organizations, Hall and others who help those battling addiction are hopeful the increased availability will help save lives.
“It definitely removes a very big barrier for people who may not have been able to go to a doctor to get a prescription for it or whatever that may be,” said Tony Yucus, a clinical manager at Maryhaven. “We see overdoses on a regular basis with what we do, and I think that will definitely help.”
Hall said he’ll be closely watching how much Narcan will cost and said it’s extremely important those who need it can still get it.
“So this is really just the beginning,” he said. “There is a lot more work ahead to ensure this medicine is where we need it when we need it.”
Once Narcan is available over the counter, the FDA said people will also be able to get it online.