AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter naloxone nasal spray, a medication that can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives.

According to the FDA, more than 100,000 people died from overdoses in a 12-month period ending in October 2022.

Dr. Katie Sprinkel is the medical director of the emergency department at the Medical Center of Aurora, and she said she’s seen too many opioid overdoses.

“I can tell you we see it most every day, and it’s a real problem,” Sprinkel said. 

Overdose reversal drug to be sold over the counter

Coloradans can already access naloxone, or the brand name Narcan, without a prescription. There is a standing order and pharmacists can dispense it at the counter.

But this move by the FDA paves the way for naloxone to be sold directly to consumers in places like drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations, as well as online.

“The change for Coloradans is that the Narcan will be right beside the ibuprofen and the Tylenol. You don’t need to talk to a pharmacist,” she said. 

Patrick Sullivan said this is a positive step.

“Any expanded access to it is going to be positive,” he said.

Sullivan stopped using opioids 13 years ago and now works for Community Medical Services, a treatment center.

“I’ve lost a number of friends to overdose. It’s a preventable death,” he said.

How much does naloxone cost?

While he supports the move, his one concern is the price. 

“Over-the-counter medications are not generally covered by insurance,” he said.

Sullivan said the out-of-pocket cost of naloxone without insurance can be $100 or more. He and Sprinkel hope the cost will not become a barrier. 

“We need to put Narcan in people’s hands at little to no cost,” Sprinkel said.

According to the FDA, the manufacturer will determine the price and when the over-the-counter product becomes available.