GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Helping save a life could soon be as simple as a trip to the vending machine. The FDA is closer to making opioid overdose medications more accessible.
In South Carolina, naloxone nasal spray, like Narcan, is available without a prescription, but you cannot get it over the counter.
A recent vote by the FDA advisory committees would make nasal spray available in places other than at pharmacies.
“Overdoses are so common, that’s why the overdose rates are increasing so quickly,” said Dr. Quang Pham.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says in the year 2020, 75% of fatal overdoses involved opioids. According to the CDC, Narcan can potentially reverse an opioid overdose.
There has been community distribution of the nasal spray for several years.
“It’s been successful, but we still need to give people more access to the medication. Right now, they have to find a community distributor or go to their local pharmacy and go to the pharmacist to get it,” said Jessica Owens.
Owens, with the Phoenix Center, an addiction treatment center in Greenville, said increased access to the nasal spray would be of no risk to the community.
“If we have it more as an over-the-counter medication, people can just go into the gas station and buy it,” she said. “Or, even better, if there’s vending machines in the community.”
FDA advisors voted unanimously Wednesday to make the spray available over the counter, and urged the move should happen quickly.
Dr. Quang Pham specializes in internal and addiction medicine and said the spray is user-friendly.
“The spray, you just tilt the head back, put it up the nose and spray,” said Dr. Pham.
He said more access means more lives saved.
“It’s a huge harm-reduction positive, because if you are able to prevent an unnecessary death, you allow that person a chance to enter recovery and get their lives back,” he said.
Owens said even if it’s mistakenly given to someone who isn’t experiencing an opioid overdose, it will not harm them.
“The fact that I gave them Narcan, nothing bad is going to happen to that person,” she said.
Although increasing access to the antidote is not a cure-all.
“The spray will only last about 5 minutes, because the affects are really short-lasting. So, if you have to use the Narcan, you have to call 911, as well,” said Dr. Pham. ” So, you’re basically stalling for time before first responders come.”
The final decision, expected within the next few weeks, is up to the FDA Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf.
For a list of all the community distributors where you can receive Narcan, click here.