Walgreens to offer its own cheaper version of opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone

A man walks past a Walgreens truck owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance in Manhattan, New York City on November 26, 2021.

Andrew Kelly | reuters

Walgreens said on Wednesday it would launch its own cheaper version over the counter Opioid overdose reversal spray naloxone. The medicine is available online and will be available in all stores by the end of the month.

The drugstore retailer aims to boost access to life-saving drugs in the US as the country grapples with the opioid epidemic and attempts to reduce a worryingly high drug death rate.

From 1999 to 2021, more than 645,000 people died from overdoses of any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When administered timely, naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose of opioids, including heroin and fentanyl. The drug blocks the effects of opioids on the brain, restores normal breathing and prevents death.

Despite the efficacy of naloxone, access to treatment “remains limited in many communities,” according to a release from Walgreens.

The company said it will sell a two-dose pack of “Walgreens Brand Naloxone” for $34.99. It’s about $10 cheaper than that over-the-counter branded drug Narcan, which last year became the first prescription-free version of naloxone to win Food and Drug Administration approval. Previously, patients needed a prescription to access naloxone.

“Anything we can do to increase access, not only in terms of quantity and availability, but also in terms of price, is really important,” Dr. Priya Mammen, senior medical director in Walgreens’ Office of Clinical Integrity, told CNBC. It was a solid decision to make.” an interview.

The company said the launch of its prescription-free naloxone nasal spray comes after the F.D.A. recent approval of the product. it is General Equivalent to over-the-counter Narcan, which Walgreens currently offers in its stores.

Mammen hopes Walgreens can help reduce the stigma associated with drug overdoses and naloxone use.

This medicine “isn’t just for a few people. It’s a life-saving medicine that can affect anyone at any age, at any time, and it’s something that families, individuals and communities can empower themselves to make available.” can and be part of the solution,” she said.