Two overdose reversal medications being reviewed by the FDA to be sold over the counter
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Opioid overdose deaths in Jefferson County continue to rise. New data shows there is already 39 suspected drug deaths so far this year, but one federal change that could soon be improving access to lifesaving medications.
Naloxone or Narcan is a medicine that can help reduce opioid deaths. If you administer the medication within the first few minutes of an overdose, it can counter those effects. But right now, you have to have a prescription to get it and only certain people in Alabama can, but that may soon change.
“We would love for it to be over the counter” Jefferson County Medical Director Dr. Darlene Traffanstedt said. “It would be really wonderful, especially in some of our more rural areas of the state.”
There are two priority applications in with the FDA right now for two different products to no longer require a prescription.
“The makers of Narcan have an application in,” she said. “Another manufacturer has put in an application for a three milligram nasal spray and that decision will be rendered by the end of April.”
The FDA is set to decide on the Narcan application by the end of March, which means access could improve by summer. Right now, in Alabama, there’s even more restrictions on the product.
“To be able to dispense it, you have to be a physician, a dentist, a nurse employed by a county health department, or a pharmacist,” Traffanstedt said. “The restrictions the state law put on who can dispense Naloxone, will go away once it becomes an over the counter product. Community based organizations that work in the substance abuse space will now be able to help us get Naloxone out to those who really need it”
But, Traffanstedt said approval doesn’t always mean it will be affordable. She said cost could create another barrier for those in need.
“When products initially go over the counter, the cost remains significant until additional competitors come into the market and the cost eventually goes down.”
Jefferson County Health Department offers a free Naloxone kit right now. You can also add free fentanyl testing strips and they’ll mail it right to you.
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