Over-the-Counter Naloxone Spray Could Hit Shelves in 2023

Nadia Ramlagan

West Virginians could soon be able to purchase naloxone, brand name Narcan, without a prescription.

Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked the application for an over-the-counter spray version of the overdose reversal medication submitted by Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions.

Advocacy groups said they are balking at the price, which has skyrocketed over the past few years.

John Kennedy, director of Musicians for Overdose Prevention, expects an over-the-counter price tag of at least $100, which he said is cost-prohibitive for people who need it most, and for nonprofit groups working to distribute Narcan at the community level.

“At 80 to $90, a Narcan kit, someone who’s a user, they can’t afford that,” Kennedy pointed out. “If we’re distributing 2,000-3,000 kits a year, which we are, that’s into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we can’t afford that either.”

According to data from Health Affairs, Narcan nasal spray has a list price of around $150. In a news release, Emergent BioSolutions — which has not yet confirmed a cost if an over-the-counter spray were approved — said so far, millions of doses of prescription Narcan have been distributed across the U.S.

Kennedy believes the high cost is aimed at getting local and state governments to pay for stocking large quantities of the medication in health departments, fire stations, and ambulances. He noted states and municipalities have received hundreds of millions of dollars from opioid settlements.

“Emergent BioSolutions is positioning themselves to kind of move the funds from one big pharma company, which is Purdue through the governments, and now we’re moving it directly into the pockets of another big pharma company,” Kennedy contended.

He also pointed to the growing presence of fentanyl mixed into illicit drugs as a reason to ensure widespread and affordable access to naloxone.

“Now fentanyl is in pills, in meth, in cocaine and just about every powdered substance,” Kennedy added.

According to the CDC, more than 1,300 West Virginians died of a drug overdose in 2020.