Opioid overdose reversal drugs are now available over-the-counter in Alaska

Narcan nasal sprays on a shelf in a store in Anchorage on September 20,2023. Narcan is an opioid overdose reversal drug and is now available over the counter in Alaska. (Rachel Cassandra/Alaska Public Media)

The opioid overdose treatment Narcan became available over-the-counter in pharmacies throughout Alaska last week. The FDA approved the treatment for sale over-the-counter in March but there were regulatory hoops to jump through first.

Robin Lutz, executive director at the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association, distributes a stronger version of Narcan, called Kloxxado, as part of her organization’s harm reduction efforts. She said having Narcan available over-the-counter can save lives, especially in areas where there is no free distribution of opioid overdose kits.

“When something gets offered over-the-counter, there is a little part of that action that normalizes the use of something, like, ‘oh yeah, I need to buy some Tylenol and tampons and also, I’m going to pick up Narcan,’” Lutz said. 

Lutz said carrying an opioid overdose kit is something all Alaskans should consider. And any household with an opioid prescription should keep a kit just in case. 

But she worries about the cost of the overdose kits. Narcan will be sold in packs of two for about $45. 

“We’ve seen, especially, specifically fentanyl overdoses that could take four doses to revive,” Lutz said. “And then that has to be re-administered in a short amount of time, depending on the person’s system and how they’re doing.”

Naloxone kits are also still available by prescription and sometimes covered by insurance. And many organizations in Alaska distribute free opioid overdose kits. They’re available at many public health centers or clinics. Project Hope is part of the state health department and coordinates free naloxone distribution.

RELATED: Opioid reversal drugs save lives in Alaska. But people are often skipping a crucial step

Rachel Cassandra covers health and wellness for Alaska Public Media. Reach her at rcassandra@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Rachel here.

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