CHEYENNE – All 10 Wyoming pharmacies located inside Albertsons and Safeway stores will now offer Narcan nasal spray without a prescription.
The opioid-overdose treatment is a needle-free, 4-milligram dose of naloxone, the main ingredient in Narcan. It is the only FDA-approved naloxone nasal spray for the emergency treatment of opioid-related overdoses. Narcan blocks the effects of opioids for 30-90 minutes, reversing any respiratory delays that may lead to death for enough time for the person to reach a medical facility.
Nikki Price, director of pharmacy operations for Albertsons and Safeway, said Narcan also can be used for a variety of purposes other than heroin overdoses.
For patients struggling with cancer-associated pain or chronic illness, opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone sometimes are the only reprieve. But the risk of keeping painkillers in the home brings the potential for an accidental overdose.
Children, in particular, are at risk of this type of overdose.
“We keep fire extinguishers in our house in case we have a fire,” she said. “If you have opioids or narcotics in your house, you might want to have this in your house too.”
A new bipartisan law passed last year allowed over-the-counter sales of Narcan, should pharmacies choose to offer it without a prescription, making it more available to the public. Before the law passed, Wyoming was one of the most difficult places to access Narcan.
Many accidental overdoses occur at home, and the nasal spray was established as a fast, easy response.
From 2002 to 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths in America nearly quadrupled, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Naloxone has very few proven risks. It cannot be used to get high and is not habit forming.
It is legal to prescribe Narcan in every state, but only 36 states allow over-the-counter sale of naloxone. One of the only major side effects of Narcan to those experiencing an overdose is opioid withdrawal, which is rare.
In Cheyenne, Walmart pharmacies have no immediate plans to offer the spray over the counter, but Walgreens pharmacies expect to follow suit this summer.
Angela Wilson, a longtime nurse who now volunteers at local clinics throughout the county, said she has seen an increase in opioid overdoses during her time working in Wyoming.
“There are very few risks with using Narcan,” Wilson said. “This is a win for loved ones of addicts and those who suffer from ongoing pain in Wyoming. It is not every day that a financial perk for a company is also good for people.”
Each box of nasal spray includes two 4-milligram doses of Narcan. Insurance covers the $150 cost if you’re making the purchase for yourself, but caregivers will have to pay out of pocket.
“We dispense the opioids, and we want to be part of the solution to help with the opioid epidemic around here,” Price said.