There seems to be a disconnect between the New Jersey municipalities with the greatest need for a key weapon in fighting opioid overdoses and those with the greatest access to it.
A Rutgers study, published in the Journal of Medical Toxicity, found that naloxone wasn’t as available in pharmacies in poor, large cities as it was in smaller, wealthier towns. The drug, often sold under the brand name Narcan, can stop and reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Atlantic City is one of those lacking availability, along with Newark and Camden. Only 16 percent of the pharmacies in the resort carry naloxone, compared to 66 percent in the Hunterdon County township of Readington.
One reason is that naloxone can be expensive, costing $70 to $300 for those lacking Medicaid or other insurance to cover it.
The South Jersey Aids Alliance helps by providing naloxone free to people participating in its syringe access program.
The Federal Drug Administration is helping, but its efforts will take longer to reach the market. Last month it approved the first generic naloxone nasal spray, which can be easily administered by people without medical training. Unfortunately, the maker of the approved generic, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, is tied up by a legal battle with Narcan manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions and it may be many months before people will be able to buy cheaper generic naloxone nasal spray.
The FDA also is exploring other ways to increase availability, including helping manufacturers pursue approval for an over-the-counter naloxone product and considering whether the overdose-reversal drug should be co-prescribed with all or some opioid prescriptions to reduce the risk of overdose death. Generic injectable naloxone for use in health-care settings has been available for years.
New Jersey’s people at risk of overdose, especially those in its poor cities, would benefit greatly from easy to use and less expensive generic nasal spray naloxone. Perhaps the state Attorney General’s Office should consider signaling its support for a legal outcome that lets Teva provide it soon.