As state lawmakers consider making it easier for more Iowans to buy a nasal spray that reverses an opioid overdose, federal officials are considering rules that would reclassify naloxone as an over-the-counter medication, so anyone could buy it.

Iowa law currently limits who may buy naloxone to first responders and school officials. While a pharmacist can sell it without a prescription, the person authorized to buy it must sign a ledger. Talia Sopp of Anchorage, Alaska is a University of Iowa medical student. She previously worked at an addiction treatment center for teenagers

“Over the past four years, I’ve worked with doctors, pharmacists and community organizations to try to get naloxone directly into the hands who use drugs, which is important,” Sopp says. “…Who’s most likely to be at the scene of an overdose? It’s most likely someone who uses drugs.”

Alison Lynch is the director of the opioid addiction clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Lynch says being able to buy naloxone over the counter would make it more available in rural areas.

“After hours they can go to Casey’s or Walmart or something,” she says. “Even if the pharmacy is not open at Walmart, you know, on a Sunday or something, they can still go and purchase it.”

Naloxone is sold under the brand name Narcan. Two federal advisory panels of addiction experts said last week the medication is safe to sell without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to make its decision about the nationwide sale of naloxone by March 29th. A bill that would toughen state penalties for fentanyl-related crimes includes letting more public officials get naloxone from a pharmacist, but would not make it available to anyone.

(Additional reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Natalie Krebs)

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