Health officials applaud over-the-counter access to Narcan, but cost is a concern

First responders statewide have been carrying Narcan for years and it has saved many lives.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:22 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s public health community is praising the FDA’s decision to approve life-saving overdose reversal drug Narcan without a prescription, but advocates are also urging federal leaders to ensure the price tag is reasonable.

Narcan, the name brand of naloxone, could be on store shelves as early as this summer.

First responders statewide have been carrying Narcan for years and it has saved many lives.

That’s why making the drug more widely-available just makes sense, said Heather Lusk, executive Director of the Hawaii Heath and Harm Reduction Center. Especially since opioid overdoses are climbing in Hawaii and nationwide.

Lusk said Narcan should be in every home if there are prescription pills.

She points to an incident on Maui in which a grandmother overdosed on her pain medication.

She has dementia and forgot that she already took her pills so she took a second dose.

“Her granddaughter was trained to administer Narcan,” Lusk said, and that saved the woman’s life.

Narcan is currently available with a prescription so insurance coverage can help with the cost.

But when it becomes an over-the-counter drug, it could be too expensive for some consumers.

Currently, one dose can cost up to $75.

Narcan’s manufacturer has not released details on what the price will be when it’s offered in supermarkets and other, non-pharmacy retailers.

“That’s exactly what we’re waiting for,” said Lusk.

HHHRC has distributed Narcan to first responders and outreach workers for years, using grant money and with help from the state Department of Heath. Lusk said a cheaper, generic brand of naloxone is also expected to get approval soon.

The DEA said more drugs are being mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl and that is putting more people at risk.

Anthony Chrysanthis, deputy special agent in charge, said over-the-counter naloxone is needed.

“It’s a tool that can be used, that could save a life,” Chrysanthis said.