Narcan’s high cost may limit accessibility despite FDA approval

WASHINGTON —The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale of Narcan, a medication used to reverse drug overdoses, without a prescription. This decision has been eagerly awaited by advocates who believe that easier access to the nasal spray can save lives.

However, a major concern is the cost of the medication. In the FDA’s press release about the approval, Commissioner Robert M. Califf emphasized the importance of making the medication affordable.

“We encourage the manufacturer to make accessibility to the product a priority by making it available as soon as possible and at an affordable price,” Califf said.

The manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions, plans to make Narcan available without a prescription by late summer, but the company hasn’t disclosed the price yet.

According to a study by the RAND Corporation, the average out-of-pocket cost of naloxone increased by 500% for uninsured patients between 2014 and 2018. For those with insurance, the cost decreased by 26%. The average out-of-pocket cost for uninsured individuals rose from $27 to $250 during this time period.

This increase in cost has made it difficult for some to access the medication. That’s why advocates like “Narcan Nate” have made it their mission to distribute it for free. Nate Smiddy spoke with Emily’s Hope in a recent Grieving Out Loud podcast.

“I know people who will buy it in bulk quantities, and they mail it to me, but it’s very, very expensive,” Nate Smiddy said. “In the last year, I’ve heard of 450 plus lives saved.”

While the FDA’s decision to make Narcan available without a prescription is a step in the right direction, advocates say making it affordable to all will be critical in the fight against the overdose epidemic.