A major drugmaker plans to sell overdose-reversal nasal spray NARCAN over the counter

December 15, 2022

Drug maker Emergent BioSolutions is seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell NARCAN over the counter (OTC), without need for a prescription, reports NPR.


The medication, an easy-to-use nasal spray version of the drug naloxone, has a strong track record reversing deadly opioid overdoses, which have soared in recent years largely because of the spread of fentanyl.


“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” says China Darrington, an addiction counselor in Ohio who was, herself, addicted to heroin for 16 years, adding, “The potency of the drugs nowadays is just so unfair. Naloxone has got to be around. People have got to have access to it.”


Darrington tells NPR she survived addiction because people happened to have NARCAN on hand when she overdosed. “I’ve experienced being NARCANed, I want to say, about a half dozen times in my life. It kept me alive. You have to give people a chance to stay alive,” she says.


During severe opioid overdoses, people stop breathing and die. Narcan and other forms of naloxone quickly reverse those harmful effects. But right now the medication is often hard to get, with access complicated by a dizzying patchwork of state and federal laws.

Speaking at a press conference this month, Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, pointed out that last year alone roughly 80,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. With naloxone on hand, many of those deaths would have been avoided.

“There is today no excuse, no excuse absolutely for not having it everywhere available, when we know that’s one medication that can save tens of thousands of lives right now,” Gupta said.


Emergent BioSolutions CEO Bob Kramer says the FDA has now agreed to fast track its application to sell NARCAN over the counter without a prescription, with an answer expected by the end of March.


Kramer says that the goal is to have NARCAN so widely available that it’s everywhere, ready in people’s purses, in school classrooms, in shops and businesses, whenever someone overdoses.


“It’s very easy to administer,” he says. “You place the device in the nostril in the nostril and you deploy the mechanism with a puff.”


Research contact: @NPR