With over-the-counter Narcan approved, concerns rise over affordability

The decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow over-the-counter sales of Narcan — the leading opioid-overdose antidote — is great news to harm-reduction and health advocates in Maryland. But it has raised some concerns about affordability.

Laura Mitchell, co-founder of Montgomery Goes Purple, a coalition committed to substance use prevention and recovery efforts in Montgomery County, said one advantage of this new availability is that Narcan can be sold in places other than pharmacies or given out through health departments.

“It can be in convenience stores and big-box stores and mom-and-pop shops,” Mitchell said.

But a potential problem comes down to affordability, Mitchell said. Most over-the-counter drugs are not covered by insurance or prescription discount card plans. Unless there’s a change, Mitchell said, “It won’t reduce my costs, my personal costs.”

Over the past few months, Montgomery County officials and school leaders have led a concerted effort against drug use by cracking down on drugs like fentanyl and leading training sessions on how to use naloxone.

Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for Emergent BioSolutions, the Gaithersburg-based manufacturer of Narcan, said in a statement that the company is not discussing price at this time.

“We are in active discussions with retail partners to expand access to Narcan through multiple channels,” he wrote.

Since acquiring the overdose reversal drug, “Emergent has not raised the price of Narcan and provides discounts to public interest groups like community-based organizations, harm-reduction groups, fire departments and law enforcement,” Hartwig said, adding the company has also donated “thousands of units” of Narcan to help underserved populations.

“Emergent plans to have Narcan available over-the-counter in late summer,” Hartwig said.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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