Opioid overdose treatment could be sold over the counter soon locally

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 11:43 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A powerful nasal spray that helps reverse drug overdoses may soon be sold over the counter across the Chattahoochee Valley. Experts say the treatment should be more accessible because frequent overdoses have led to a nationwide public health crisis.

One of the experts I talked with - like many across the country - is in favor of that nasal spray being sold over the counter. But, the other says she’s worried it could make the opioid crisis worse.

A life saving treatment preventing drug overdose deaths could soon be easier for anyone to get.

This week, a panel of experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted in favor of selling Naloxone over the counter. The medication is sold in many ways, including as a nasal spray called Narcan. When used, the spray quickly helps someone experiencing an overdose wake up and breath again.

“Using the Narcan will give you a little more time so that person can get medical attention and treatment so that they won’t die,” said Pamela Kirkland, at the Columbus Health Department.

According to the FDA drug overdose is currently the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. One drug leading to a lot of deaths like this is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine that experts say is nearly 100 times more powerful. Within the past two weeks, Troup County Coroner Erin Hackley says at least three people in their area died from a drug overdose. Last year, Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman says his deputies arrested a man caught in Columbus with enough Fentanyl to kill EVERYONE in the county.

With that in mind, one local health expert says selling Narcan over the counter would be a huge benefit to the Chattahoochee Valley.

“I think anyway, that we can get Narcan into the hands of people on the street that may need to use it, is a good thing,” Kirkland added.

But say they have some reservations with the controversial treatment.

“I feel that if the regular habituated opioid user has access to Narcan, it’s going to foster a sense of complacency in them. For example, they might be happy using Narcan at home and not bothering to call the ambulance,” said Dr. Ritu Chanda, Founder of Preferred Medical Group.

Dr. Chandra says treatment only works for 30 to 90 minutes. So, even after it’s used, users must STILL call an ambulance, something she fears may not actually happen.

“The interesting aspect is that the two companies who have applied for a license to sell the product over the counter have not disclosed their price point at this point. So we don’t know how that’s going to play out also,” said Dr. Chandra.