Narcan to be available over-the-counter soon

3 mins read
A box of Narcan on campus at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif., on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan for over-the-counter back in March and currently, shipments to pharmacies and stores are underway. 

At the Overdose Awareness Event on Thursday, harm reduction specialists seem to believe that Narcan can be purchased at any California pharmacy without a prescription. 

However, pharmacies say otherwise. 

Walgreens and Safeway Pharmacy state they require a prescription before you can buy Narcan. 

Director of Overdose Prevention Policy and Strategy for the National Harm Reduction Coalition Mary Silla explained that in states like California, Narcan is available at pharmacies through what’s called standing orders. 

“It basically said we know it’s a prescription, but we’re going to have somebody at the state level it’s broadscale subscribed for anyone who wants to go to a pharmacist and buy it,” Silla said.

And depending on your insurance, Narcan does not come cheap. 

A Walgreens pharmacist says Narcan costs around $100. But according to Silla, that should come down to around $40 with insurance. 

Over-the-counter Narcan approved by the FDA arrives at pharmacies and stores as early as next week.

“I have heard within the past couple of days that the first Narcan product was being shipped to outlets to be sold over the counter,” Silla said.

That was confirmed at a CVS pharmacy in San Francisco but with a higher price point.

“Supposed to be over the counter next week. Supposed to be 70-something dollars,” said on CVS pharmacist.

Silla says this might work for someone who can afford it but is worried that the cost will take away from those who are more prone to drug overdoses. 

“Really we want to make sure we are not limiting the supply of Naloxone to people who use drugs people who are unhoused, people who lack access to mental health services,” Silla said.

A bill that would require insurance companies to cover the full cost of Narcan is one step closer to becoming law. The bill authored by Assemblymember Liz Ortega passed in senate appropriations today, it now needs to pass a vote on the California Senate and Assembly floors.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.