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FDA to consider making overdose-reversing drug naloxone easier to access

Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 14, 2023

Health regulators are considering whether to expand access to overdose-reversing medication naloxone to combat drug overdoses

The Food and Drug Administration will meet Wednesday to review the first application for a naloxone nasal spray that you could get over the counter.

“I think we need to be mindful that we're gonna have the biggest impact on overdoses by making sure that people who are most likely to witness an overdose, which is family and friends and people who use opioids, that they have access to naloxone,” said Dr. Caleb Banta-Green of the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Banta-Green's work focuses on interventions to support recovery and reduce substance-related harms.

He says if the over-the-counter medication is approved, the cost is a big thing to watch because if it's too high, it could reduce access. But he also believes this is just a first step.

He says we need more emphasis on treatment for opioid use disorder, which is the medical term for addiction.

“When we talk with folks who use illicit opioids, 80% say they want to stop or reduce their use, but most can't and/or won't go to traditional health care addiction treatment programs,” said Banta-Green.But they will go to low-barrier programs. They will go to community-based programs that have a harm reduction forward model where people are not judgmental.”

Treatments for opioid use disorder include the medications buprenorphine and methadone.

A federal funding bill signed into law at the end of last year eliminated a requirement that medical providers get special waivers to prescribe buprenorphine.

Banta-Green said this should lessen the barrier to access but not remove it entirely because of the stigma that still exists.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Dr. Caleb Banta-Green is with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, not the School of Public Health.