Walgreens to Start Selling its Own OTC Naloxone Nasal Spray

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The company’s version of the opioid overdose medication will be $10 cheaper than branded products and is set to be available in stores later this month.

Walgreens is now offering its own over-the-counter (OTC) 4 mg naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray, the company announced in a news release.1 The product will be cheaper than national brands and will expand access to the life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication.

Walgreens to Start Selling its Own OTC Naloxone Nasal Spray / Giovanni Cancemi - stock.adobe.com

Walgreens to Start Selling its Own OTC Naloxone Nasal Spray / Giovanni Cancemi - stock.adobe.com

What’s the Issue?

Walgreens, the second largest pharmacy store chain in the United States, said its OTC 4 mg naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray is available online now and is set to be on store shelves nationwide by the end of the month.

  • The Walgreens-branded naloxone will cost $34.99, which is around $10 dollars cheaper than national brands like Narcan.
  • The company, which serves around 10 million customers and patients across the country every day, said that its cheaper product will enable more consumers to purchase the life-saving medication.
  • Walgreens said in the news release that the launch of the product follows approval from the FDA.

READ MORE: Illicit Fentanyl Seizures Increased Nearly 2000% Within 7-Year Period in US

Why it Matters

Opioid overdose deaths in the US have been consistently rising over the past several years. The wide availability of OTC naloxone allows more people to purchase the medication that can help save the lives of people experiencing an opioid overdose.

  • According to data published by the CDC, there were over 109000 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2022. Around 70% of those overdose deaths were due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.2
  • Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. It prevents overdoses by temporarily reversing the effects of opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications.
  • A 2022 study published in the Lancet Public Health found that states with more community-based and pharmacy-initiated points of naloxone access had higher use of the medication and higher numbers of averted opioid overdose deaths.3

Expert Commentary

  • “As a leading healthcare services company rooted in a retail pharmacy footprint, Walgreens is committed to removing barriers to naloxone access,” Priya Mammen, senior medical director in the Walgreens Office of Clinical Integrity, said in a release.1 “As an emergency physician, I have for years combatted the devastating impacts of the opioid overdose epidemic and worked tirelessly to save lives. Expanding access to naloxone is a critical step in empowering individuals, families, and communities to act and be part of the solution. We must all confront this crisis head-on to bring change.”
  • “It’s critical that we continue to give [patients] access to naloxone through prescriptions and that insurance continues to cover the cost with little or no co-pay,” Scott Hadland, an addiction specialist at Mass General for Children Hospital, told NBC News.4 "A generic, store-brand that is $10 cheaper will make a difference. This is real progress.”
  • “Without the administration of naloxone, there is a high risk of fatality from an opioid overdose,” Marta Sokolowska, deputy center director for substance use and behavioral health at the FDA, said in a release.5 “This is the reason it is very important that anyone witnessing an opioid overdose has access to naloxone and feels confident using it during an emergency.”

In Depth Insights

Naloxone (Narcan) was first approved by the FDA as a prescription drug in 2015 to prevent overdose from opioids. It was given OTC approval in March 2023 after Emergent BioSolutions provided the FDA with data showing the drug can be used safely and effectively as directed in proposed labeling.

  • After Narcan’s OTC approval, 2 other naloxone products received approval from the FDA. Harm Reductions Therapeutics received approval in July 2023 and a generic version from Amneal Pharmaceuticals was approved in April.

Extra Reading

For more on this issue, check out these articles:

READ MORE: Substance Use Disorder Resource Center

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References
1. Walgreens Brand Naloxone Available Online and In Stores This Month. News Release. Walgreens. May 15, 2024. Accessed May 15, 2024. https://www.walgreensbootsalliance.com/news-media/press-releases/2024/walgreens-brand-naloxone-available-online-and-stores-month
2. Tanz LJ, Gladden RM, Dinwiddie AT, et al. Routes of drug use among drug overdose deaths—United States, 2020-2022. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2024;73(6):124-130. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7306a2
3. Irvine MA, Oller D, Boggis J, et al. Estimating naloxone need in the USA across fentanyl, heroin, and prescription opioid epidemics: a modelling study. Lancet Public Health. 2022;7(3):e210-e218. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00304-2
4. Lovelace, B. Walgreens is launching a generic version of over-the-counter Narcan. News Report. NBC News. May 15, 2024. Accessed May 15, 2024. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/walgreens-launching-generic-version-counter-narcan-rcna152195
5. Access to Naloxone Can Save a Life During an Opioid Overdose. News Release. FDA. March 29, 2023. Accessed May 15, 2024. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/access-naloxone-can-save-life-during-opioid-overdose
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