Independent advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday unanimously recommended over-the-counter sales of Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse opioid overdoses.
Narcan, known generically as naloxone, blocks the effects of opiates on the brain and is usually administered by first responders and outreach workers. Many public health experts have argued that it needs to be widely available without a prescription so people who use drugs, their friends, and relatives can have easy access to it. In 2021, there were 107,000 fatal drug overdoses in the United States, including several people who died after illegally buying pills like Xanax and Percocet that were laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The advisers determined that Narcan requires no training to administer and is "abundantly safe and effective even in infants, with almost no potential for misuse or abuse," The New York Times writes. Because of their unanimous vote, it's likely the FDA will approve an over-the-counter version of the medication in March, meaning it could hit store shelves and vending machines by summer.
The advisers all being in agreement "underscores the importance of moving this drug to greater access and also highlights the terrible risk of not acting in terms of making the drug more accessible," Maris C. Coyle, chairwoman of the advisory panel and an associate clinical professor at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, told the Times.