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FDA approves first over-the-counter version of Narcan to combat opioid overdose epidemic

FDA approves over-the-counter version of Narcan
FDA approves over-the-counter version of Narcan 02:16

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time, the FDA has approved an over-the-counter drug that can counter the effects of opioid overdoses. The newly-approved form of Narcan can be given to anyone, even babies, to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Data shows in Minnesota opioid-involved overdoses increased by 44% to more than 970 people in 2021.

The FDA announcement was a big win for Colleen Ronnei, founder of nonprofit Change the Outcome. She lost her son Luke to an opioid overdose nine years ago, when he was only 20 years old. Since then she's been educating others about Narcan and how it can save lives.

"This is so easy. there should be no fear involved," Ronnei said.

The over-the-counter Narcan comes as a nasal spray, so it's easy to administer. It will be available in a pack of two, in case it takes more than one spray to reverse the overdose -- but in most cases, one spray is all you need.

The spray is expected to be available for purchase over the counter at pharmacies and online by July. The cost though is still up in the air, likely ranging anywhere from $25 to $40, which could be covered by your insurance.   

"Even if somebody has been using cocaine, or meth, or they've taken a pill they think is Adderall or ecstasy, they can be revived by this. Because fentanyl can be in a lot of those substances now, unfortunately," Ronnei said.  

FDA Approves Over The Counter Status For Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Narcan
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Dr. Charles Reznikoff specializes in addiction medicine at Hennepin Healthcare. He says they've seen a 30% rise in overdose deaths and it's affecting all ages and races. He hopes over the counter sales will help lower those statistics.

"There's no reason every household shouldn't have one of these. Everyone can have one in their backpack and people's lives will be saved," Reznikoff said.

Still, the work isn't over for Ronnei. She's continuing to push for Narcan in schools and to educate families.

"I can't think of a better way than this to honor our son," she said.

State Rep. Dave Baker, R - Willmar, lost a son to an overdose 2011, and he is now the chairman of the state's Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council (OERAC). Following the FDA's approval of over-the-counter Narcan, Baker gave this statement to WCCO:

While it took longer than it should have, today's news is an important milestone in the fight against opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Improved access to this safe and easy to use nasal spray will save thousands of lives across Minnesota and around the nation. Despite today's positive news, our work is not done. That's why I continue to work hard to pass our bill that will hold drug dealers accountable for selling illegal fentanyl. Increasing criminal penalties for those that deal these deadly drugs in our communities is the next step in winning this fight.

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