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Walgreens is launching a generic version of over-the-counter Narcan

Walgreens is launching a generic version of over-the-counter Narcan

​​Walgreens said Wednesday that it will sell its own generic version of over-the-counter Narcan, the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug that first rolled out to drugstore shelves last fall.

Its version of the antidote, a drug called naloxone, will cost $34.99 for two doses, $10 cheaper than the brandname version from Emergent BioSolutions that’s also sold at Walgreens and other major pharmacy chains across the U.S. 

Walgreens’ generic version will be available on store shelves nationwide by the end of the month, the company said. It is already available to buy online.

Walgreens’ generic naloxone nasal spray will cost $34.99 for two doses.Walgreens

Dr. Priya Mammen, senior medical director in the Walgreens Office of Clinical Integrity, said the company decided to launch a lower-priced option to increase access to the medication.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killing nearly 107,000 people in 2021.

“What I’m hoping as an emergency physician is this just normalizes it,” Mammen said. “This is another product that we now just get used to seeing it available to buy, to have, to restock for our own personal first aid kits.”

Like the brand-name Narcan, Walgreens’ version is sold as a nasal spray. If given quickly enough, the antidote can reverse overdoses from fentanyl and other opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers. 

The medication will be in the pain aisle, the company said.

The launch comes after Emergent’s over-the-counter version hit store shelves in September.

Experts said that rollout didn’t go smoothly, primarily due to the product’s inconsistent placement in stores, compounded by its steep price point of $44.99 for a pack of two.

Dr. Scott Hadland, an addiction specialist at Mass General for Children in Boston, said he welcomed the lower price from Walgreens, adding any reduction in cost will likely result in more people buying the product. 

Still, he added, $34.99 is still too expensive for the patients and families that he treats.

“It’s critical that we continue to give them access to naloxone through prescriptions and that insurance continues to cover the cost with little or no co-pay,” Hadland said.

Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio, a nonprofit group that distributes Narcan free, said the price drop could generate more pricing competition that pushes the cost of the product down to less than $30 or $20 a kit.

“A generic, store-brand that is $10 cheaper will make a difference,” he said. “This is real progress.”

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr. is a health and medical reporter for NBC News. He covers the Food and Drug Administration, with a special focus on Covid vaccines, prescription drug pricing and health care. He previously covered the biotech and pharmaceutical industry with CNBC.

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