By Robert Brodsky | Updated August 30, 2023 | Source: Newsday

The overdose reversal drug Narcan is expected to be available over-the-counter early next month, including on Long Island, where advocates hailed the announcement as another major step in fighting the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 720 lives in Nassau and Suffolk last year. 

Narcan four milligram nasal spray, which can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, will be available on the shelves of pharmacies and grocery stores, along with online retailers by early September for a price of just under $45, according to Emergent BioSolutions, the maker of the lifesaving medicine.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, said Narcan saved at least 1,500 lives on Long Island last year.

"This is an absolute good that people or families who are in the struggle of opiate use disorder can have accessibility to what is a life-saving serum that is totally innocuous, except for people using opioids," Chassman said.

Jeffrey Reynolds, executive officer of the Mineola-based Family and Children's Association, said expanding access to Narcan is critical to reversing the staggering toll of the opioid epidemic, which has become the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. 

"It's a great step," Reynolds said. "We've made a lot of progress in addressing overdose fatalities on Long Island. But until such time as that number is zero, we still have more to do. Countless lives have been saved by the administration of Narcan and folks have been given a second or a third chance to find a path to recovery."

Reynolds suggests that any Long Islander that keeps opioids in their home for pain management or who has someone under the age of 25 in their household should consider stocking Narcan 

"Overdoses are so widespread at this point that it's similar to knowing CPR and rescue breathing," he said.

Opioid overdose deaths have spiked both nationwide and on Long Island, largely driven by synthetic drugs such as fentanyl.

In Suffolk County, deaths rose from 349 in 2019 to at least 420 in 2022, officials said. Nassau deaths rose from 183 in 2019 to more than 300 in 2022, county officials said.

Tom D’Angelo, owner of pharmacies in Franklin Square, Garden City and Point Lookout and the former president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, said most pharmacies will keep Narcan behind the counter and available upon request. 

But D'Angelo questions whether Narcan will be a particularly popular item as access to the spray is already available for free at addiction centers, health care facilities and for participating in educational training programs.

"It may expand access but I think people who already have a need for Narcan are going to have it," D'Angelo said. 

Major retailers said they'll have Narcan in stock in a matter of days.

Walgreens said Narcan would be available for purchase online by Sept. 5, with nationwide availability on Sept. 7, while CVS said customers could purchase it at their more than 7,500 stores early next month.

With John Asbury