How over-the-counter Narcan can impact Lowcountry addiction treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a medication that treats opioid overdoses -- and you can get this over-the-counter.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 4:32 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 7:50 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a medication that treats opioid overdoses -- and you can get this over-the-counter.

The FDA says opioid overdoses were responsible for over 100,000 deaths between October 2021 and October 2022. The naloxone nasal spray, also known as Narcan, has been available since 2015 for prescription, but the FDA says making it over-the-counter will help save even more lives.

The opioid-recovery medication can be on shelves in the future next to medications like Tylenol and Advil which typically go for around $10 a bottle. Pharmacist Joe Gandy at Delta Pharmacy in Isle of Palms says he hopes the Narcan price can be comparable because the prescription without insurance is around $100.

“Oftentimes it’s more expensive than the opioid itself is,” Gandy said. “And, you know, that’s a big deterrent for a lot of folks.”

The FDA says they’re planning to make a full switch from prescription to over-the-counter, except for certain dosages. Gandy was asked if there was any sort of concern that this could cause more people to take the drugs since the recovery is more accessible.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to, you know, assume that’s going to work as a backup,” Gandy said. “But having it available will certainly provide a good option.”

Patrick Harmon, a peer recovery coach at MUSC’s Institute of Psychiatry says Narcan should not only be used for those addicted to opioids or opiates.

“Patients that we see in the hospital it’s just a small portion of the people that can actually use that help that is out there in the community,” Harmon said.

Allison Smith, an addiction psychiatrist and assistant professor at MUSC, says opioids can be laced with any street drug, like cocaine or even marijuana, so everyone should be informed on how to use it.

“I just think more people, like family members, anyone that has someone they’re worried about using, they can carry it around in their car, in their purse,” Smith said. “And if they come across someone that is, they’re worried about, has overdosed, they can give them immediate access.”

The FDA says they’re working with stakeholders to determine when Narcan will be in stores and how much it will cost. However, it will all be up to the manufacturer.

“Opioid-related deaths are a public health crisis. Not just nationally, but in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, too. Our goal is to save lives. For those who overdose on opioids, Narcan is often the go-to antidote for first responders who are trying to save the person’s life,” Trident Emergency Department Assistant Medical Director Dr. Kenneth Perry said. “Our hope is that deaths will be prevented and individuals will seek help for their addiction.”

Sara Goldsby, the Director of the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, provided the following statement Wednesday:

[The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services] applauds today’s decision by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to approve Narcan nasal spray for over-the-counter, nonprescription use. When administered in time, Narcan can reverse the effects of overdose from prescription opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and others), heroin and fentanyl. This lifesaving medication is a crucial part of South Carolina’s efforts to reduce the rate of opioid overdoses and deaths in our state, and the FDA’s decision will make it more easily accessible to citizens who are at risk of overdose, as well as those friends and family members who care for them.