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FDA approves Narcan for over-the-counter purchase

Late this summer, you'll be able to find the life-saving drug at grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and even online.

ARKANSAS, USA — On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan for over-the-counter, nonprescription use.

In the life-or-death situation of an opioid overdose, Naloxone has become the standard treatment to reverse the effects. Narcan is a nasal spray of Naloxone, and with the approval, it became the first naloxone product to be authorized for nonprescription use.

Captain Doug McCratic with Central EMS says he is forced to use Narcan at least twice a day, peaking as events bring visitors to the area. 

McCratic explains that when responding to a call involving an unconscious person, "If there's no one there to tell us what's happening, then we have to guess. So we're gonna look at heart rate, we're going to look at breathing, we're gonna look at their EKG, and their blood sugar. And if all of that checks out, then the next tool is probably going to be Narcan, just to see if it has a positive effect."

"We tend to think of the intentional overdose of the recreational users, but there is absolutely the case where some of our elderly folks will get up, take their medication, forget that they took their medication, and take more," said McCratic. "We've seen a lot of cases with it. Narcan has been in our toolbox now for at least 20 years. It's been a fantastic tool for us."

However, the Opioid crisis is difficult to talk about. Chris Jones with NWA Harm Reduction explained that he's had to help active users at their apartments, campsites, and even parking lots late at night. 

"I'm gonna meet someone where they're at without judgment right If I want them to trust me, and that I'm doing, I'm doing it because I want to see them get better," said Jones.

The approval of the Narcan nasal spray allows the general public to access the drug.

"We're not going to have to go to our doctor and admit that we're using, we're not going to have to go to our doctor and say, I have a loved one, and they may be dabbling in illicit drugs. We can just go into the store, pick it up, and pay for it ourselves. So it breaks down that stigma," said Jones.

Captain McCratic also explained that expanding access to the general public is beneficial, especially those close to users, as "they are more likely to know what is wrong with that patient because they were probably with them when it happened."

Pharmacist Julie Stewart with Medical Arts Pharmacy said that while the move is great for accessibility, not having to speak with a medical professional to receive a prescription can present new issues.

"When something goes over the counter, a lot of times, that means that insurance won't cover it anymore," said Stewart. "Then [it's a matter of] just making sure that they get the education on how to use it, when to use it, and what to do after you use it."

Stewart explained thought that buying this life-saving drug will become as easy as buying Ibuprofen and bandages.

"The great thing about Narcan is if you don't need it, it's generally not doing any harm. But if you do need it, it can be life-saving," said McCratic.

Manufacture Emergent BioSolutions said their Narcan nasal spray is, "expected over-the-counter availability is anticipated by late summer of this year." After that, you might find it in convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and even online.

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