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Kansas City pharmacies will start selling a life-saving overdose reversal drug over the counter

Naloxone hydrochloride, also known as Narcan, is an overdose antidote that many states have made available to first-responders.
Charles Krupa
Naloxone hydrochloride, also known as Narcan, is an overdose antidote. It will be available to buy off store shelves later this summer, per a decision from the Food and Drug Administration.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that the overdose-reversing drug Narcan was approved for over-the-counter sales. Missouri residents can already get the drug without a prescription from a pharmacy.

Kansas City residents will be able to buy the overdose-reversing drug Narcan over the counter following a decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationon Wednesday.

Narcan is the brand name of the drug naloxone, which is the standard treatment for an opioid overdose. Over-the-counter approval of the Narcan nasal spray means the drug will be more widely accessible, allowing people to buy it like they do common painkillers. The announcement comes as overdose deaths in Missouri are on the rise — more than 2,000 people in the state died from an overdose in 2021.

It will be a few months before Narcan appears on store shelves. Emergent BioSolutions, the drug company that makes Narcan, said it will be available by late summer because of manufacturing changes.

Public health experts and harm-reduction organizations say it’s important to expand access to Narcan as the opioid crisis continues.

“We're very happy that individuals are going to be able to have easy access to it when they really need it,” said Kate Cummins, a pharmacist at Phillips Family Pharmacy in Riverside, Missouri.

Narcan access in Missouri

Because of a Missouri standing order issued in January, residents can receive Narcan from a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. It applies to people requesting Narcan for themselves if a pharmacist determines they are at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose or to people getting Narcan to help someone else.

Local organizations have also been distributing naloxone in the community for free and without a prescription.

Tony Spalitto is a pharmacist at Spalitto’s Pharmacy in Kansas City. He called the FDA decision a “double-edged sword.” Since people need to go through a pharmacy to get Narcan, pharmacists like him can see who is getting the drug and how frequently.

“Then I can further dive into, is this an actual issue at hand with them overdosing or potentially taking too much and having breathing issues once or twice every other month or two?” he said.

Spalitto can then contact a patient’s doctor. Right now, he can also keep a record of the people who have asked for the drug.

“I can't do that or keep track of that if it's over the counter to buy like a bottle of ibuprofen,” Spalitto said.

Where to access naloxone if you need it


If you’re a Missouri resident, you do not need a prescription from a doctor to get naloxone from a pharmacy. Call your local pharmacy to make sure they have the drug in stock.

Several organizations and recovery community centers also offer naloxone for free in Kansas City:

  • Healing House: 4505 St. John Ave., Kansas City MO 64123, (816) 920-7181
  • Confluence HRKC: 816-944-0917, the group runs four delivery routes each week.
As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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