President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency Thursday, the same week Walgreens announced it would start selling Narcan — a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose — at its pharmacies throughout the country. Both moves come at a time when 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s how Narcan works.
What is Narcan?
Narcan is a brand name for naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Some states now require its police officers to carry naloxone to revive people who have overdosed. Many firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other first responders also carry naloxone.
Naloxone comes in three forms, some of which are generic, and all are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating opioid overdose.
How do you administer Narcan?
One form of Narcan or naloxone that usually requires a prescription can be administered as a shot, with some professional training, into the muscle — most often in the thigh, buttocks or shoulder.
An easier naloxone shot, available without a prescription for untrained people, works much like the EpiPen, which treats allergic reactions. Sold as Evzio, it is an auto-injection pre-filled with naloxone that anyone can inject into the outer thigh. The device comes with verbal instructions to guide users.
A nasal spray version of Narcan can be applied into the nostril of person who has overdosed by both trained and untrained users.
Where can I get Narcan?
Narcan and other forms of naloxone are available both by prescription and over the counter in some states. Many emergency room physicians will write prescriptions for patients they treat for opioid overdoses.
Family members of people who are addicted to opioids or heroin can also get Narcan without a prescription at pharmacies. CVS offers naloxone over the counter in 43 states, while Walgreens now stocks Narcan in all of its 8,000 stores nationwide.
How much does Narcan cost per dose?
Narcan can cost around $130 to $140, for a kit that includes one to two doses. Depending on your insurance plan, you could have a copay anywhere between $0 to $20 to purchase the medication. Medicaid and Medicare cover brands like Narcan, but coverage varies by state. Some community-based organizations focused on treating drug addiction may provide Narcan for free.