Editorial Roundup: Expanding accessibility to Narcan will save lives
Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took action last week that will no doubt save many people from opioid overdose deaths.
The agency’s approval of selling the antidote Narcan over the counter will provide much wider access than prescriptions do for the same drug. As soon as late summer, the nasal spray form of naloxone is expected to be available at convenience stores, gas stations, supermarkets and online.
Narcan is proven to be effective at reversing overdoses of street drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, as well as prescription medications including oxycodone.
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In a country where opioid overdoses continue to increase at an alarming rate, the FDA’s action is a game changer. More than 101,750 reported fatal overdoses occurred in the 12-month period ending in October 2022, primarily driven by synthetic opioids such as illicit fentanyl.
Even before the FDA’s action, pharmacies could sell naloxone without a prescription because officials in every state allowed it, but not every pharmacy carries it. And not every drug user has access to free doses of Narcan through clinics and nonprofits.
It’s progress that most emergency response personnel and even schools, such as the Mankato district, have naloxone at the ready. There have been at least five area deaths in the last three years from overdoses of fentanyl-laced opioids or other drugs. In January, three local teens who overdosed on what is believed to be counterfeit oxycodone received doses of naloxone, which saved their lives.
This expansion of access to Narcan is so important to save additional lives wherever the overdoses may occur, from small towns far from a drugstore to inner-city schools to college campuses. Few places have escaped seeing opioid overdoses.
No longer requiring a prescription for the antidote also removes the stigma that a drug user faces if seeking Narcan to have on hand. Some drug users don’t want the prescriptions to go through their insurance.
With more than $50 billion in settlement funds being delivered to state and local governments from companies accused of flooding their communities with opioids, let’s hope that some of that money will be used to keep the cost of naloxone down for everyone.
The more available naloxone is and the more people who know about it, the more lives saved.
— Mankato Free Press, April 3