This is huge!

Now is a very exciting time for efforts to address the opioid overdose epidemic. Just last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted fast-track approval of a nasal version of the life-saving opioid overdose-reversing drug Narcan (Naloxone).

It currently takes an average of 12 years for a drug to go through clinical development and gain approval for use by the FDA, but with the fast track, it took just two-and-a-half years. Nasal Narcan should begin to be sold in pharmacies by January 2016.

Opioids are currently the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S. and the FDA has said fighting this epidemic is a major focus:

“Combating the opioid abuse epidemic is a top priority for the FDA,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., acting commissioner, Food and Drug Administration in their official press release about Nasal Narcan. “We cannot stand by while Americans are dying. While naloxone will not solve the underlying problems of the opioid epidemic, we are speeding to review new formulations that will ultimately save lives that might otherwise be lost to drug addiction and overdose.”

Increasing accessibility to this new, easy-to-use antidote will save countless lives. For those who are not medical professionals, a nasal spray is much less intimidating to administer than an injection requiring syringes and needles.

While some states still require a prescription for Naloxone, Colorado and several other states currently make it available in pharmacies and at harm reduction organizations, via a mechanism called “standing orders” (where a physician issues a blanket prescription for anyone meeting certain criteria, defined in their standing order).

Recently, some 200 Colorado King Soopers and CVS stores made Naloxone available by standing order, without a formal prescription from a doctor, and another 150-200 Safeway and Albertsons stores will soon do the same.

Our free OpiRescue app includes instructions on how to deliver Naloxone via injection or by nasal administration.

While the FDA approval of Nasal Narcan is a big win to help reduce opioid overdoses, much more can and needs to be done when a patient first receives a prescription for opioid pain medication. With better tools for prescribing and monitoring, hopefully we will see a dramatic decrease in opioid addiction and overdose in the coming years.