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'We're in a crisis': Valley health experts react to FDA approval of over-the-counter Narcan

Naloxone, or Narcan, is commonly used to reverse an overdose caused by opioids. Now, thanks to the FDA, it can now be sold in stores.

PHOENIX — On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a potentially life-saving drug for over-the-counter sale. 

Naloxone, or Narcan, is commonly used to reverse an overdose caused by opioids. Now, thanks to the FDA, it can now be sold in stores.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. 

The CDC said in 2021, more than 107,000 people died from an overdose and more than half of the deaths can be attributed to opioids.

Teresa Dickinson is the owner of Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix. They've sold Narcan to the public for the past five years to anyone who wants it.

"People do not need a prescription, they can just walk in and ask for it, and we'll fill it like a prescription," she said. "Narcan is super important right now, especially with how bad fentanyl has gotten right now. It's life-saving."

Pharmacies all across the United States know how valuable a box of Narcan can be. Many have been able to sell the medicine to anyone who needs it prescription-free because state officials have allowed it. Now that the FDA has approved over-the-counter sales, Narcan is more readily available at places like convenience stores, supermarkets and online retailers.

"With the amount of overdoses and deaths we're seeing, we're in a crisis," said Ray Young. "It's extremely important that it's available in any juncture."

Ray Young is a License Professional Counselor at Terros Health. He has seen first-hand the life-saving measures Narcan can provide someone. Terros Health also offers free Narcan kits and training for anyone or any organization interested. He feels there's no harm in allowing more places to sell the medicine. 

"It's all about education; it's about changing the stigma," he said. "We have a true pandemic and we have a true crisis going on in this country. This gives them the opportunity to save a life and work with that individual to get them to a better place."

Boxes with two doses could be on store shelves by late summer. The FDA hasn't announced a price for the medicine, but pharmacy costs can be anywhere from $120-$140. Dickinson also says insurance typically covers it if the person has medical insurance.

"I think it's a good thing to have," she said. "There really can't be anything wrong with it. Just there's a stigma behind it and we just want people to realize that we want them to have emergency medication on-hand in case something went wrong."

The exact impact isn't entirely known, but experts say what is known is that it will help save lives one box at a time.

"I say let's celebrate this and get this out there," Young said. "It saves lives, bottom line."

For more information about the Narcan program at Terros Health, visit their website here.

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