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F.D.A. Advisers: Narcan is Safe to Sell Over the Counter

February 16, 2023

Two federal panels of addiction experts on Wednesday unanimously recommended that Narcan, the overdose-reversing nasal spray, be made widely available without a prescription, a significant step in the effort to stem skyrocketing drug fatalities.

Making Narcan an over-the-counter drug has been urged by doctors, advocacy groups and the Biden administration.

The unanimous vote by the committees, which advise the F.D.A, makes it highly likely that the F.D.A. will approve an over-the-counter version of the drug, next month. It could potentially become available in vending machines, schools, convenience shops, big box stores and supermarkets by summer.

As the overdose crisis worsened in recent years, the use of Narcan has become commonplace, but the millions of doses have been administered largely by outreach workers, health care providers and emergency responders. For people who use drugs as well as their friends and relatives, ready access to the prescription medication has been elusive.

Many public health experts believe that if more people were to have the spray readily available,  in their pockets or knapsacks, many fatalities could be averted.

The Biden administration has made expanding access to the medicine a priority in its efforts to combat the overdose crisis. In recommending naloxone, the 19 voting panelists determined that it is abundantly safe and effective even in infants, with almost no potential for misuse or abuse. And, the panels concluded, naloxone does not require medical training to use.