CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose without a prescription is getting stocked at some pharmacies in North Carolina.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved over-the-counter naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, to reduce overdose deaths.
Over 4,000 people died of an overdose in the state in 2021, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Before the approval, pharmacy manager Sameer Shah at Carefirst Specialty Pharmacy said he only filled a few prescriptions for the life-saving spray. He wants to raise awareness of the change.
“People are not aware of it, that it's available without a prescription, they can just come in and buy one,” Shah said.
The store had six boxes of non-prescription naloxone in stock on Wednesday, after receiving the first shipment Tuesday.
“I think it’s great resource for people who experience opioid emergencies. It’s a great thing to have in hand when there’s an emergency like that,” Shah said.
In the Charlotte area alone, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said there were 137 overdoses in August, which is a 20% increase compared to last year.
“If it can be prevented, let’s do that. It will be helpful,” Shah said.
At the Dilworth Center, a Charlotte private nonprofit substance use disorder treatment program, employees keep Narcan in all of their first aid kits.
Chief Executive Officer and President Charles Odell is encouraged that the nasal spray is now also available over the counter.
“You can’t help somebody if they’re dead, and what Narcan does is it saves lives,” Odell said.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, research shows Narcan access doesn’t increase drug use or riskier drug use. Instead, some studies show the availability of naloxone lead to decreased use of opioids.
Odell said he is familiar with these findings.
“One of the things is that if you have an overdose, that’s a very powerful influence in a person’s desire to get clean. A near death experience can change people’s lives,” Odell said.
Shah said he’ll increase orders as demand and awareness grow for the over-the-counter medication.
The current price tag is around $45.