FDA advisors suggest OTC use of Narcan, a lifesaving opioid overdose medication

The advisors of the US Food and Drugs Administration have suggested making Narcan, a life-saving drug for opioid overdose, an OTC medication. This means that now Narcan can be purchased directly from the pharmacy without the need for any prescription from a physician. Although it is just a suggestion, the final decision regarding this suggestion will be taken on March 29. If this decision is to be passed by the US regulators, it will be a massive help in reducing the rising deaths due to drug overdose in the country. Potent addictive substances such as Fentanyl, have increased the deaths associated with substance abuse. 

A major reason behind these deaths is the consumption of off-brand drug substances that are not regulated in terms of quality and concentration of active substances, thus creating a hit-or-miss situation for the user. Another major reason is the trade of contaminated drugs containing fentanyl. Heroin, a popular narcotic drug, has physical similarities to fentanyl, Thus off-brand sales often mix synthetically prepared fentanyl with naturally obtained heroin to increase their profit. But due to such practices, deaths associated with drug overdose have increased. According to recent reports, the deaths associated with opioid overdose rose by around 18% in 2021 compared to 2020, which are concerning figures. 

Narcan is considered a life-saving treatment for anyone who has overdosed on opioid-based drugs. Narcan is prepared by a pharmaceutical company named Emergent BioSolutions. Because of its effectiveness in treating opioid overdose, Narcan is preferred as a primary treatment for such patients. Narcan is a nasal spray that contains 4 mg of Naloxone, which acts against the choking sensation induced by opioids, thus helping the patient to breathe efficiently. Naloxone can induce effects within just two minutes of administration, thus offering it the title of life-saving medication. Hence, making the medication an OTC product would save countless lives through improved access. Elizabeth Coykendall, one of the FDA’s temporary voting members, said that there is no potential reason to keep the medication prescription-based. 

Emergent BioSolutions has also supported the suggestion of the FDA’s independent advisors. The company said that if the FDA accepts this suggestion and makes Narcan an OTC medication, then it will be able to supply the medication by late summer in the market. Matt Hartwig, the representative of Emergent BioSolutions said that the company is working on distribution plans with the government parties and retailers. Many states have already started working towards his suggestion to improve access to Narcan and other Naloxone formulations for their population. Jody Green, a member of the US FDA, said that if Narcan becomes an OTC medication, it will be possible to make it available at many stores such as vending machines, supermarkets, convenience stores, etc. This way, more people will be able to acquire this life-saving medication. And this is a necessary step towards controlling the deaths associated with a drug overdose. Within the past two decades, over half a million people have died from an opioid overdose. These numbers are alarming because deaths associated with opioid overdose could have been avoided easily with the availability of treatments such as Narcan.