The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting to determine whether to make Narcan — a drug used to treat opioid overdoses — available as an over-the-counter medication.
Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, which was approved by the FDA in 1971 and has been used by emergency medical technicians and hospitals to treat individuals suffering from drug overdoses.
The move by FDA officials comes as deaths from the opioid fentanyl are skyrocketing across the U.S.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is now the leading cause of death for U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 45, marking a grim milestone as the opioid crisis continues.
Last year, Narcan nasal spray began being provided to school districts in California after multiple children suffered fentanyl overdoses.
“We have an urgent crisis on our hands,” LA Unified Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said at the time. “Research shows that the availability of naloxone along with overdose education is effective at decreasing overdoses and death—and will save lives.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) now provides Narcan to the LA Unified school district at no cost, and officials say they have enough doses for all K-12 schools.
Fentanyl exposure to an individual who has not developed a tolerance to the synthetic drug can lead to death in as little as six minutes. With the average response time for EMTs being between seven and 14 minutes, people having narcan readily available could save lives.
Narcan can be administered via injection or through nasal spray. However, the nasal spray was developed for use by individuals with no medical training.
Some studies have suggested that if Narcan were available as an over-the-counter medication, more people would use it, CNN reported.
All 50 states currently have laws that allow Narcan to be sold without a prescription, but it still must be bought from a pharmacist, according to CNN.
A report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Narcan kits given to friends and family have saved nearly 27,000 lives.
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