Narcan is coming to local pharmacy shelves, is the price affordable?

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:02 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Tylenol, Band-Aids, and now, Narcan.

The life-saving overdose reversal drug is coming to local pharmacy shelves if it isn’t there already. The Food and Drug Administration approved its sale over the counter in late August, with a price tag of $44.99 for a two-dose nasal spray.

Preckshot Compound Pharmacy and Alwan Pharmacy did not have it in stores yet.

National chains like Walgreens and CVS said they would carry the medication. At one local Walgreens on Wednesday, there was a spot on the shelf advertising the drug would be there soon, with a sticker below listing a $49.99 price.

While getting the medication in stores can help to reduce the stigma against drug addiction, some locally aren’t sure it will actually help those struggling.

JOLT Harm Reduction provides free naloxone in both intermuscular and nasal spray forms, no questions asked. Trillium Place also offers free Narcan and fentanyl or xylazine testing strips in Lincoln, Peoria, and Canton.

Director Chris Schaffner said the price point and walking into a store may deter people from purchasing the drug.

“You’ve got to walk up to the pharmacists and ask for it, or take it to the cashier and purchase it. There’s always the fear of being found out or people making judgments about you,” Schaffner said.

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood also said the price is too high. His office responds to those sudden deaths brought on by overdose.

“It’s 44 freaking dollars, which I think is ridiculous,” he said. “This is what the drug companies have done, they’ve upmarked the price of it and charged higher prices to make money off of it to make money off of someone suffering from substance use disorder.”

While not everyone who struggles with substance use disorder is poor or struggling, Harwood said the people he sees impacted most often are. Overdoses happen in other parts of the county, but they tend to be outliers.

Chemically, the excess heroin or opioid blocks the receptors in the brain that tell the body when to breathe. At risk of oversimplification, naloxone essentially washes the receptors clean and restarts the breathing process. It does not sober the person up. In large doses, it can actually cause sudden withdrawal systems.

People struggling with addiction may not be in the right state of mind to buy Narcan or keep it on hand, even if they can afford it. Schaffner said many different types of people take their free Narcan, whether they are someone who uses opioids, knows someone who uses them or doesn’t want to risk not having it.

“Anybody who has the means to [afford it over the counter], can do that,” Schaffner said. “I think the money could be better used though.”

He said someone in need of Narcan can get it from JOLT, and use the saved funds to help someone struggling with addiction like helping them with housing costs or anything else they might need.

JOLT receives its nasal spray naloxone doses from the State of Illinois as an overdose prevention group.

On a cultural level, putting it on store shelves can help normalize addiction.

“You walk by, oh there’s ibuprofen, there’s immodium, oh there’s Narcan, there’s Band-Aids,” Schaffner said.