Walgreens announces it will sell a generic version of over-the-counter Narcan

ByMary Kekatos ABCNews logo
Thursday, May 16, 2024
Walgreens announces it will sell a generic version of OTC Narcan
Walgreens announced Wednesday it will be selling a generic version of over-the-counter naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses.

Walgreens Boots Alliance announced Wednesday that it plans to sell its own generic version of the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

Narcan is given as a nasal spray and the active ingredient in the medication -- naloxone -- can quickly restore breathing if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose and if it is administered in time.

In March 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan to be distributed without a prescription -- a milestone advocates have said will make it easier to save lives amid the country's ongoing opioid epidemic.

The nasal spray became available in fall 2023 at pharmacies, drugstores and grocery stores as well as online retailers with a suggested price of $44.99 for a two-dose box.

Walgreens said its over-the-counter version will be called Walgreens Brand Naloxone HCI Nasal Spray and will be priced at $34.99.

The pharmacy said the generic version is currently available online and will be available at stores across the country by the end of the month. It will be found in the pain aisle.

"As a leading healthcare services company rooted in a retail pharmacy footprint, Walgreens is committed to removing barriers to naloxone access," Dr. Priya Mammen, senior medical director in the Walgreens office of clinical integrity, said in a press release.

"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," the statement continued.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says naloxone is safe for bystanders to administer to anyone who appears to be experiencing an overdose and will not hurt users if it turns out they are not experiencing an overdose.

Harm reduction groups and other experts have been pushing for easier access to naloxone, saying over-the-counter status means people won't have to speak to a pharmacist to purchase the drug, which lowers barriers to access and reduces stigma.

Walgreens did not immediately reply to ABC News' request for comment.

The U.S. has been battling a drug overdose epidemic for years. According to provisional data from the CDC published on Wednesday, there were an estimated 107,543 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2023, a high number albeit lower than the 111,029 deaths recorded in 2022.

The majority of these deaths were due to opioids, particularly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.