The Food and Drug Administration has approved Narcan, a drug overdose antidote, to be sold over the counter.

This puts the “leading version of nalaxone” to be “on course to become the first opioid treatment drug to be sold over the counter,” The Associated Press reported.

Experts hope that having the antidote drug more widely accessible will help lower “the nation’s alarmingly high drug fatality rates,” according to The New York Times. The number of deaths from opioid drug overdoses was 81,020 in 2021, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the last two decades, the number of opioid deaths is in the millions.

“Today’s approval of O.T.C. naloxone nasal spray will help improve access to naloxone, increase the number of locations where it’s available and help reduce opioid overdose deaths throughout the country,” Dr. Robert Califf, the commissioner of the FDA, said, per the Times. “We encourage the manufacturer to make accessibility to the product a priority by making it available as soon as possible and at an affordable price.”

The drug is already credited for saving thousands of people’s lives from opioid overdoses that would have killed them without it, The Washington Post reported.

What is Narcan?

Narcan is a nasal spray that “can reverse overdoses of opioids, including street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl and prescription versions including oxycodone,” per the AP.

Emergent BioSolutions manufactures the spray and has not revealed how much it will charge for it yet. Some health groups have estimated the cost could fall around $47 for a kit that has two sprays, per the Post.

According to the Post, “public health advocates say too high a price will blunt sales and lessen its lifesaving impact.”

Where will Narcan be distributed?

It’s not yet clear where the drug will be on store shelves, but Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, urges public places to have the drug on hand — including restaurants, banks and schools, CNN reported.

“We will encourage businesses, restaurants, banks, construction sites, schools, others to think about this — think about it as a smoke alarm or a defibrillator, to make it as easily accessible, because it’s not just you,” Gupta said, per CNN.