CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The FDA announced on Wednesday that naloxone can be sold without a prescription. It’s the first opioid overdose medication to be sold over the counter.

The best-known form of naloxone is the approved Narcan brand nasal spray.

Joe Trotter, Harm Reduction Program Coordinator at Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD), said this decision is part of an ongoing process to fight the opioid crisis.

“It’s going to give those people more of a chance to survive,” said Trotter.

Trotter said he’s hoping the move reaches more people.

“More rural areas where maybe they don’t have a health department nearby or program nearby that can assist with getting Narcan to them, they might not have a hospital nearby,” Trotter said.

One of those facilities is a Paxton drug shop. Pharmacist Andy Hudson said it is a good move.

“We can provide to people that come into the pharmacy to get it and help them understand how to use it, when to use it, and things like that,” said Hudson.” So, I think we’re in a good position for that.”

Hudson said Narcan isn’t harmful.

“It’s what we call safe and effective for over-the-counter use,” Hudson said.

Trotter said it’s currently available at CUPHD. The state buys it and CUPHD helps administer it.

“We’re able to supply it at no cost to anyone for any reason,” Trotter said.

The FDA announced that Narcan will be made available over the counter by late summer.

“It blocks the negative effects of the opioid, so if someone were to overdose on that it would typically pretty quickly bring them out of that,” Hudson said.

“We need members of the public to be ready, willing, and able in case that emergency happens nearby them,” Trotter said.

It costs Hudson’s Pharmacy about $50 per dose, but Hudson said he hopes once the new changes go into effect, it will be more cost-effective for consumers.

“When we have 100,000 people a year die from opioid overdoses and we can cut down that number by a small percentage, is certainly worth having it over the counter,” Hudson said.

Trotter said people using these drugs still have family, friends, jobs. They are contributing members of society and should never be forgotten.

“Anything that we can do to make it easier to save them, to keep them alive, and to show them care, it’s going to be hard, it is going to be hard for us,” Trotter said.

Right now, the price is unclear along with whether insurers will continue to cover it as a prescription drug if it becomes available over the counter.

The latest available data from the CDC shows that 66% of overdose deaths in 2021 were from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Statistics show more than 3,000 people in Illinois died of overdoses in 2021.