California will supply first responders, universities with opioid overdose reversal drug for free

Mexicali, Mexico-June 6, 2023-Naloxone HCI is used to revive people who have overdosed including with fentynal. Most all of the heroin and meth drugs in Mexicali have traces of fentanyl, leading to a high death rate amongst addicts. Even if they wanted to avoid fentanyl, it would be impossible. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will soon purchase opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone below the current market rate through the state's prescription drug label, CalRx. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

California will provide first responders, universities and other qualifying organizations with a generic version of Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug, for free, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.

CalRx’s Naloxone Access Initiative will buy over-the-counter naloxone for $24 a pack, which is about half the market price, from Amneal Pharmaceuticals, a New Jersey-based manufacturer, according to a news release from Newsom's office.

The deal enables the state to buy 3.2 million twin packs of the drug instead of the 2 million it bought at the previous price.

“California is disrupting the drug industry with CalRx — securing life-saving drugs at lower and transparent prices,” Newsom said in a statement.

Read more: California is making fentanyl test strips free to organizations. How to get a kit

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved selling Narcan, the leading version of naloxone, without a prescription in March 2023. Last week, the FDA approved the generic version of Narcan spray made by Amneal Pharmaceuticals.

Announced in 2019, CalRX is the state's effort to contract with generic and biosimilar drug makers to offer cheaper versions of insulin and other medications. The goal is to reduce shortages and prod drugmakers to lower their prices, saving the state and its residents in the process.

Thousands of Californians die every year from opioid overdoses and accidental ingestion. In response, state health officials have distributed millions of naloxone kits for free.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.