LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News)-The Food and Drug Administration Wednesday approved Narcan, the drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to be sold without a prescription, which the state health department said would help tremendously.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said expanding access to naloxone, the generic name of Narcan nasal spray, has been a major priority of the department for years, and the department has a standing order to buy the medicine.

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“Over-the-counter naloxone will remove another barrier to accessing this life-saving drug and allow us and our partners to continue to expand access and save lives as we combat the opioid crisis in our state,” Sutfin said.

She said on top of making the overdose-reversal drug easier to get, the FDA ruling could convince some hesitant organizations to start distributing it. She said they were hesitant because it had only been available by prescription.

MDHHS officials hand out naloxone kits across the state. There were 70,236 kits handed out in 2020; 120,444 in 2021; 199,668 in 2022 and 79,284 as of this morning in 2023.

Each Narcan kit contains two 4-milligram doses, and can be requested through the naloxone portal on the MDHHS website.

When the over-the-counter nasal spray becomes available, the price of the product will be determined by the manufacturer.

Sutfin said MDHHS doesn’t have the cost information yet either.

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“We encourage the manufacturer to make accessibility to the product a priority by making it available as soon as possible and at an affordable price,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert CALIFF said.

Narcan was first approved by the FDA in 2015 and applied for over-the-counter status in February. The FDA approved it unanimously.

Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the producer of Narcan nasal spray, was bought on March 2 by Indivior, which is a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, according to a press release.

The nasal spray was created with help from a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health and a contract with the Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority.

A 2022 drug report released yesterday by Sparrow Forensic Pathology Services showed the number of opioid deaths had declined by 8% since 2021. There were also fewer fentanyl-related deaths and heroin-related deaths in 2022 between Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella and Shiawassee counties.

The Michigan Opioid Dashboard showed the 2022 trend for the state heading toward a lower number of opioid deaths in 2022 than 2021.

MDHHS recently received an $800 million check from an opioid settlement (See “MDHHS Receives Part of $800M Opioid Settlement Payment,” 2/10/23).

“With opioid settlement funds, we have the means to get more naloxone into the hands of those who need this life-saving medication, and we will do everything we can to make sure that happens,” Sutfin said.