Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan for over-the-counter use, Penn administrators and student groups said it was a positive step.
Narcan, a naloxone product, is the most common treatment for opioid overdoses. With this approval, the medication will be able to be sold to consumers in convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, and online, as well as other locations.
William Adelman, the executive director of Penn Student Health and Counseling, said that Narcan is not currently distributed to students through their offices.
"Over time, we'll assess other options as it becomes more readily available over-the-counter," Adelman said.
Jackie Recktenwald, Wellness at Penn’s director of well-being initiatives, said that the approval of Narcan as over-the-counter medicine was a positive step across the board.
“It’s wonderful news,” Recktenwald said. “We don’t want access to be a barrier and we don’t want cost to be a barrier, [and] that’s a wonderful victory for harm reduction."
Prior to the over-the-counter approval, Narcan had a standing order as prescribed by Pennsylvania’s Physician General, meaning that anyone could have received Narcan through a pharmacy without a prescription.
College sophomore Victor Tsao, MERT’s co-community outreach officer and current leader of MERT’s Narcan training program, said that the approval of Narcan may increase equity.
"[S]ome of the people who are most affected by opioid use disorders are living in neighborhoods where there are not as many pharmacies,” Tsao said.
Tsao also said that Narcan’s over-the-counter approval may reduce the stigma around receiving it, as recipients may not want to speak with a pharmacist.
“The law currently mandates that even though you can access Narcan from the pharmacy, you still need to receive a brief training from the pharmacist in order to get it,” Tsao said, “and some people may not feel comfortable with having these conversations.”
MERT offers regular training sessions detailing how to properly use Narcan, including monthly Penn-wide training sessions on the first Friday of every month and smaller training sessions that individuals or organizations can request.
“We talk about what Narcan is and what it does, especially how to recognize when you should use Narcan and we talk about how to properly deliver Narcan to someone who's experiencing an overdose,” College junior and MERT Co-Community Outreach Officer Junny Kim said. “The goal of these trainings is really to make sure that people are better equipped to handle opioid overdoses that might happen in front of them.”
Kim also said that it was important for MERT to continue its Narcan trainings after the approval.
“Now that this over-the-counter order has been kind of approved, it's even more important that we continue our Narcan trainings since Narcan is accessible to pretty much anyone who wants it,” Kim said.
College junior Max Yang, the chief of MERT, said that all of MERT’s Narcan-related trainings are free, including the ones requested individually and those scheduled monthly.