Walgreens Rolls Out $34.99 Naloxone, as Generics and OTC Gain Ground

May 16, 2024

Walgreens is rolling out an over-the-counter (OTC) naloxone nasal spray, which it will sell alongside the OTC Narcan it already carries. The Walgreens version is a 4 mg dose, functionally identical to Narcan but priced at $34.99—making it $10 cheaper than the name-brand version. The company announced the launch May 15.

Walgreens Brand Naloxone HCl Nasal Spray is slated to be in the pain aisle of Walgreens brick-and-mortar locations across the country by the end of May. Though the May 15 press release from Walgreens Boots Alliance, the global holding company that owns Walgreens and several other chain stores, stated that the product was “currently available online,” this does not actually appear to be the case on Walgreens.com. At publication time, the product was unavailable for shipping or pickup; its two online reviews are both from customers saying Walgreens had canceled their order. Walgreens did not respond to Filter‘s inquiry.

Media have widely characterized the new product as a generic, but Walgreens Brand is in fact a brand. Walgreens Boots Alliance stated that “this launch follows the approval from the US Food and Drug Administration,” but if it sounds like Walgreens Brand naloxone is a new product, that isn’t exactly true either. There are a handful of existing OTC 4 mg naloxone nasal sprays—some generic, some branded—and those FDA approvals are what the company is referring to, rather than a new approval issued to Walgreens directly. 

Walgreens Brand naloxone is a white label product, meaning it’s naloxone manufactured by a different company and repackaged to look the way it would if Walgreens had actually made it. According to sources close to the situation, the manufacturer is Amneal Pharmaceuticals.

 

 

In March 2023, Narcan manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions received the first FDA approval to sell a naloxone product OTC, without requiring a prescription. Walgreens, along with other major pharmacy chains, began stocking OTC Narcan that September, priced at $44.99 for a two-pack. For bulk purchasers that qualify as public health distributors, like syringe service programs, state health departments or law enforcement, Emergent has lately been setting the price at $41.

On the one hand, Emergent is the losing party here. Narcan has become its golden goose, and after nearly a decade the monopoly that Emergent has forcefully created is finally starting to break down as other companies’ generics start to emerge. According to sources close to the situation, the Walgreens product launch also coincided with Emergent quietly dropping its public interest price from $41 to $33—keeping it just under the retail pharmacy price, presumably for optics’ sake.

On the other hand, Emergent can afford to make the public interest price whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Narcan brings in over $100 million per year. Emergent still corners the lucrative part of the naloxone market, which is government contracts with bulk distributors and not Walgreens customers paying $44.99. The recent OTC naloxone approvals aren’t putting Emergent out of business; it’s just profiting a little more slowly.

 


 

Top photograph via Walgreens Boots Alliance. Inset image via Walgreens.com.

Kastalia Medrano

Kastalia is Filter's deputy editor. She previously worked at a number of other media outlets and wouldn’t recommend the drug coverage at any of them. When not at Filter, she works with drug users in NYC and drug checkers in North Carolina to track hyperlocal supply changes, and cohosts a national stimulant users call with Isaac Jackson.

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