The newly approved nasal spray (Narcan) contains the medication naloxone hydrochloride, which can stop or reverse the effects of a narcotic (also called opioid) drug overdose. Narcan is the first approved nasal spray version of the medication and offers an important new easy-to-use treatment option for family members and first responders dealing with a heroin or narcotic painkiller overdose, the FDA said.
Narcotic painkillers include prescription pain drugs such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (when combined with acetaminophen, it’s called Vicodin or Percocet) and morphine. Narcan can also reverse the effects of heroin.
Drug overdose deaths are currently the leading cause of injury death in the United States, the FDA said. Every day, 44 Americans die from a prescription narcotic painkiller overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In narcotic painkiller and heroin overdoses, it can be difficult to awaken the person. Breathing may become shallow or stop, resulting in death if there is no medical help. When administered quickly, naloxone can counter the overdose effects, usually within two minutes, according to the FDA.
Previously, naloxone was only approved in injectable forms, such as syringes or auto-injectors. However, there was widespread use of unapproved kits that enabled the drug to be delivered nasally. …Clinical trials showed that spraying Narcan in one nostril delivered about the same or higher levels of naloxone as a single dose of a naloxone injection. The drug can be given to adults or children, the FDA said.
The FDA cautioned that Narcan is not a substitute for obtaining immediate medical treatment when an overdose occurs, but rather a mechanism to keep the individual alive long enough to receive the appropriate care. While it is blessing to have the ability to reduce the number of deaths from drug overdoses, the biggest challenge remains to find ways to keep an overdose from happening in the first place via better mental health benefits.