Local health officials mark Narcan’s new OTC status as a win


WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – A major announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could potentially save the lives of countless people.

Narcan to be OTC

Narcan will be as easy to get as Advil or Tylenol, as it’s been approved for over-the-counter (OTC) use. It’s the name-brand version of naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

“This is news that will literally save lives. Naloxone can reverse overdoses caused by opioids like fentanyl. It is a critical tool that has saved thousands of lives,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Here at home, Wicomico County Health Department (WCHD) officials are also marking the announcement as a win.

“Narcan will be in more peoples’ hands, which means more people will be equipped to save a life, should they be witness to an opioid overdose,” said WCHD Opioid Coordinator Christina Bowie-Simpson. “Maybe this will remove, not only the barrier to accessing it, maybe the barrier that people may be fearful, or scared that it’s unsafe or harmful, which it is not. It’s a very safe medication.”

Previous Access

Previously, Narcan was available one of two ways, says Bowie-Simpson.

One avenue was through opioid response programs, like those found at WCHD. “Our local health department is an opioid response program, or an overdose response program. Anyone can come to us and get Narcan free of charge. That’s not going to change,” said Bowie-Simpson.

Another way to access the life-saving drug, is upheld by a standing order in Maryland. “That states any person can go to a pharmacy at any time, and get Narcan without a prescription. That is available for those who may not want to go through the health department,” said Bowie-Simpson.

Bowie-Simpson says the nasal spray is safe to use for everyone, and side effects of using it are minimal, it at all existent. Adding, it has even been used on K9 officer dogs who may have come in contact with an opioid. “Narcan or naloxone is extremely safe. It is safe for children age 28 days and up, it is safe for pregnant women,” said Bowie-Simpson.

Awaiting More Details

With its OTC status, Former Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Health Joshua Sharfstein has warned, could come increased prices. However, Bowie-Simpson says it’s too early to tell what kind of impact we’ll see in that area. Plus, WCHD will continue to provide Narcan to anyone who needs it.

“We don’t know when this is actually going to be live, in the stores and available over-the-counter. We don’t necessarily know the price that’s going to be attached to it,” said Bowie-Simpson. “If cost is an issue for folks, or maybe they just don’t want to spend their hard-earned money, they can still come to us, and we’ll still provide it to them free of charge.”

“The face of addiction is literally everyone.”

Maryland ranks sixth in the nation, in terms of opioid deaths. Plus, fentanyl, powerful enough to kill someone with just the amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is increasingly being found in street drugs. For that reason, Bowie-Simpson it’s now more important than ever to have Narcan on hand.

“It’s just really important right now, even if you’re not an opioid user, or you think you don’t know someone who’s an opioid user, to really have Narcan there, and available,” said Bowie-Simpson. “The likelihood, or potential to overdose on non-opioid substances, is still very much real, because of how much fentanyl is in the drug supply.”

Bowie-Simpson also hopes that making Narcan OTC will break down some of the stigmas surrounding addiction.

“At the end of the day, the face of addiction is literally everyone. It affects every race, socioeconomic status. It really could be anyone,” said Bowie-Simpson. “Substance use actually can look like any one of us. So, it’s just really important to be equipped to save a life, because we never know who may be struggling.”

Other Resources

Aside from providing Narcan, WCHD also offers many resources for those battling addiction. Those include a safe station that’s open 24/7, 365 days a year, and a harm reduction center. Bowie-Simpson also points to Wicomico County’s Community Outreach Addictions Team (COAT). “They’re peers in recovery. They just really want to help come alongside folks, and help those struggling with substance use disorder, as well,” she said.

To learn more about WCHD’s resources, click here.

Categories: Health, Local News, Maryland, Opioid Crisis