FDA Announces Preliminary Assessment that Certain Naloxone Products Have the Potential to be Safe and Effective for Over-the-Counter Use
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a Federal Register notice, Safety and Effectiveness of Certain Naloxone Hydrochloride Drug Products for Nonprescription Use, that may help facilitate the development and approval of certain nonprescription naloxone drug products, including through the switch of certain naloxone drug products from prescription status to nonprescription status. Naloxone is a medicine that can help reduce opioid overdose deaths and when administered timely, usually within minutes of the first signs of an opioid overdose, can counter the overdose effects.
“Today’s action supports our efforts to combat the opioid overdose crisis by helping expand access to naloxone,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “The agency will keep overdose prevention and reduction in substance use disorders as a key priority and area of intense strategic focus for action as rapidly as possible.”
The Federal Register notice includes a preliminary assessment that certain naloxone drug products–up to 4 milligrams (mg) nasal spray and up to 2 mg autoinjector for intramuscular (IM) or subcutaneous (SC) use–may be approvable as safe and effective for nonprescription use. This preliminary assessment is intended to facilitate development and approval of nonprescription naloxone products; however, it is not a final determination that certain naloxone drug products are safe and effective for nonprescription use, and it does not mandate an immediately effective switch to nonprescription/over-the-counter (OTC) availability for naloxone.
To make its final determination, the FDA needs additional data, such as product-specific data on the nonprescription user interface design, including packaging and labeling. These data would usually be submitted to the agency in an application for a proposed nonprescription naloxone product.
By issuing this notice, the FDA is making application holders of certain prescription naloxone drug products aware of the preliminary assessment and the possibility that the agency may make a conclusive determination, through approval of a nonprescription naloxone drug product, that such products are safe and effective for use without a prescription.
The notice does not cover all naloxone products, as more data are needed on the safety and efficacy for nonprescription use of higher dose naloxone products and naloxone supplied in other presentations (including vials, ampules or syringes without integrated needles) before a preliminary assessment with respect to those products can be reached. The notice requests comments from the public on whether there is data to support safe and effective nonprescription use of higher dose naloxone products and on potential consequences of a switch from prescription to nonprescription status.
Over the last several years, the FDA has taken a number of steps to improve access to naloxone products. In September, the agency issued an immediately in effect guidance to clarify that certain Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements do not apply to distribution of naloxone to harm reduction programs during the Opioid Public Health Emergency. Additional efforts include development of a model Drug Facts Label, which is required for OTC drug products, with easy-to-understand pictograms on how to use the drug to encourage manufacturers to pursue approval of OTC naloxone products; requiring drug manufacturers for all opioid pain relievers and medicines to treat opioid use disorder to add new recommendations about naloxone to their prescribing information; and extending the shelf life of naloxone nasal spray from 24 months to 36 months.
The FDA continues to make progress implementing the new FDA Overdose Prevention Framework – our vision to undertake impactful, creative actions to prevent drug overdoses and reduce deaths. The agency remains focused on responding to all facets of substance use, misuse, substance use disorders, overdose, and death in the U.S. through the four priorities of the framework, including: supporting primary prevention by eliminating unnecessary initial prescription drug exposure and inappropriate prolonged prescribing; encouraging harm reduction through innovation and education; advancing development of evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders; and protecting the public from unapproved, diverted, or counterfeit drugs presenting overdose risks.