April 21, 2023 -- Emergent BioSolutions says it hopes the cost of its over-the-counter nasal spray Narcan – an opioid overdose reversal medicine – will be less than $50 for one carton of two 4-milligram doses.
Emergent said its goal is to make the OTC retail price “consistent” with the price the company charges public interest groups, which averages less than $50 per package. But the actual retail price will be set by individual retailers, Emergent said in a news release.
The FDA approved OTC Narcan on March 29, but Emergent didn’t provide a cost at that time. Emergent said it anticipates the drug will be sold in stores and online by late summer.
That $50 price would be less than the company’s current wholesale acquisition cost price of $125, Emergent said. Still, the drug would be too expensive for many people who would benefit from it, health experts told NBC News.
“It is unlikely that most folks will drop $40 to $50 on Narcan,” said Michael Barnett, MD, associate professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “They are also prioritizing rent, food, and also paying for opioids, which we want them to decrease.”
The drug is now available by prescription and for free at public health departments and community centers. Some pharmacy chains make the drug available without prescription, but consumers have to ask a pharmacist to dispense it. Health insurance usually doesn’t cover nonprescription drugs, and it’s not known if an exception will be made for Narcan.
"There’s an inevitable tension when drugs like Narcan are approved for over-the-counter sale," Larry Levitt, the executive vice president for health policy at KFF, told NBC News. "These drugs become more accessible over the counter, but also ironically more expensive for patients in many cases if insurance doesn’t cover them."
It’s hoped Narcan will help stem the number of fatal opioid overdoses, estimated at 1000,000 per year in the United States.