Narcan being manufactured by Emergent BioSolutions. Courtesy Emergent BioSolutions

The opioid overdose-reversing medication naloxone, known by the brand name of Narcan, is set to be shipped to retailers across the country for over-the-counter and online sales next month.

This is the first time an opioid antagonist will be available for sale to the public, according to a press release by Narcan’s manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions. Overdoses arising from fentanyl, heroin or opioid prescription use can be reversed with Narcan.

The announcement comes four months after initial approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and decades into the opioid crisis, where during every year since 2019 there have been more than 1,000 accidental drug intoxication deaths involving an opioid in Connecticut alone.

The nasal spray comes in packs of two doses at a suggested price of $44.99. The manufacturer will also offer a discounted price of $41 per pack for public-interest purchasers. And some organizations can obtain it at no cost through federal grants and local government programs. The medication has saved at least 2,000 lives, according to state data.

Before FDA approval, more than 20,000 naloxone kits in Connecticut were made available to select community health organizations, educational institutions, first responders and via prescription at pharmacies.

Some community health workers say everybody should carry Narcan. While someone overdosing can’t administer the medication themselves, a bystander can administer it and potentially save a life.

Narcan will soon be sold at any retailer that has a permit to sell over-the-counter medication. In April, the CT Mirror reported that 28 towns didn’t have a store that had a permit to sell over-the-counter medication. A more recent review of data from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection shows that the number has dropped to 21.

A spokesperson for RiteAid told the CT Mirror that Narcan will be available online and at all their locations. Other retailers are expected to have Narcan available as well.

In overdoses involving xylazine, an animal tranquilizer often used by veterinarians and which has been detected in an increasing number of overdoses in Connecticut, Narcan might not be as effective since it’s not an opioid. In 2021 and 2022, there were more than 300 overdoses each year involving the veterinary sedative, according to data from the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Over-the-counter sales are coming at a time when state and local officials are making decisions about what to do with over $600 million in opioid settlement money meant to combat opioid overdoses. Towns such as New London have purchased naloxone in bulk to give out to first responders while other towns have been distributing them to the public.

José is CT Mirror's data reporter, reporting data-driven stories and integrating data visualizations into his colleagues' stories. Prior to joining CT Mirror he spent the summer of 2022 at the Wall Street Journal as an investigative data intern. Prior to that, José held internships or fellowships with Texas Tribune, American Public Media Group, ProPublica, Bloomberg and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. A native of Houston, he graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism.