Walgreens announces it will sell generic version of over-the-counter Narcan

Walgreens said its generic version of Narcan will be priced at $34.99.

May 15, 2024, 1:39 PM

Walgreens Boots Alliance announced Wednesday that it plans to sell its own generic version of the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

Narcan is given as a nasal spray and the active ingredient in the medication -- naloxone -- can quickly restore breathing if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose and if it is administered in time.

In March 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan to be distributed without a prescription -- a milestone advocates have said will make it easier to save lives amid the country's ongoing opioid epidemic.

The nasal spray became available in fall 2023 at pharmacies, drugstores and grocery stores as well as online retailers with a suggested price of $44.99 for a two-dose box.

Walgreens said its over-the-counter version will be called Walgreens Brand Naloxone HCI Nasal Spray and will be priced at $34.99.

PHOTO: Walgreens Brand Naloxone HCI Nasal Spray
Walgreens Brand Naloxone HCI Nasal Spray

Dr. Priya Mammen, an emergency physician and senior medical director in the Walgreens office of clinical integrity, told ABC News the decision to release a generic version was to increase access to the medication.

"It was a very pointed decision to increase just the quantity of the product, not just from a single brand source, that is now allowed to be over the counter," she said. "And its $34.99 price point is about $10 lower than the brand product. So it's definitely increased access, increased availability and hopefully also increased affordability, which is the three-prong way to make sure we get it to as many people as as we can."

The pharmacy said the generic version is currently available online and will be available at stores across the country by the end of the month. It will be found in the pain aisle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says naloxone is safe for bystanders to administer to anyone who appears to be experiencing an overdose and will not hurt users if it turns out they are not experiencing an overdose.

Harm reduction groups and other experts have been pushing for easier access to naloxone, saying over-the-counter status means people won't have to speak to a pharmacist to purchase the drug, which lowers barriers to access and reduces stigma.

Mammen said having the medication directly available in the aisles could help lessen the stigma around naloxone by making people feel comfortable buying the medication at the pharmacy as they would any other drug.

"It changes this idea that ... just having it is some sort of scarlet letter," she said. "It is not. It is as effective, as amenable as anything else you would keep in your first aid kit, and that is the goal."

The U.S. has been battling a drug overdose epidemic for years. According to provisional data from the CDC published on Wednesday, there were an estimated 107,543 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2023, a high number albeit lower than the 111,029 deaths recorded in 2022.

The majority of these deaths were due to opioids, particularly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

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