Health Care — A key hurdle for over-the-counter naloxone

We should all try to be on our phones less, but not so much that we can’t be reached. This is the case for the rapper known as Ye, whose former lawyers want to run newspaper ads so he’s aware they’re not representing him anymore.

In health news, Moderna jumps into the older adult RSV vaccine marketplace. But first, a look at the FDA’s push for over-the-counter naloxone.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter?

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Those most at risk won’t be helped by OTC naloxone

The Biden administration’s push to make some forms of opioid overdose reversal drugs available over the counter will likely have little impact on the people who need it most, public health advocates warn.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last year began encouraging drug companies to apply to switch some forms of the drug away from prescription only, a move that advocates have long been pressing for as a way to increase access to a lifesaving drug.

  • Naloxone is currently only available as a prescription, though all 50 states have found workarounds to make the drug available at the pharmacy without a prescription.  

  • Yet the people who need naloxone the most are also the least likely to go to a pharmacy and request it.

Key issue: There are only two companies that have been granted fast-track priority review to sell naloxone over the counter, and harm reduction advocates say the cost is a major barrier.

The FDA is likely to approve naloxone as a nasal spray, which costs significantly more for harm reduction groups than an injection kit.

“We’re really thrilled to have an OTC [over-the-counter] product on the horizon. But there’s a huge, enormous caveat,” said Maya Doe-Simkins, a co-director of the nonprofit group Remedy Alliance/For The People. “The nasal sprays are just, you know, magnitudes of 10 or 100 more expensive than generic injectables.”

Read more here.

Veterans in suicidal crisis can now seek free care

Veterans who are in a suicidal crisis can now seek emergency care at any medical facility at no cost to them.

Starting Tuesday, veterans will have free access to inpatient care or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said in a press release last week.

  • The VA says the program will lift the burden of expensive treatment costs for veterans and provide acute suicide care access for up to 9 million veterans who are not enrolled with the federal department. 

  • “Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve — no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement, adding that the “expansion of care will save lives.”

Regardless of VA enrollment status, veterans who were discharged from active duty after more than 24 months and who were not dishonorably discharged are eligible for the program.

Also eligible are those who served more than 100 days in a combat operation or those who were victims of a physical or sexual assault in the military.

Suicide prevention is considered the VA’s highest priority. The suicide rate for U.S. veterans is much higher than the rest of the adult population, although the number of veterans suicides has begun to decline in the past two years.

Read more here.


The percentage of Americans who postponed medical care payments due to cost has grown in the past year, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll, published on Tuesday, found that 38 percent of respondents said they have put off scheduled medical care payments due to cost, a 12-point increase from the past two years.

The number also marks a new high with the previous high in 2014 and 2019, when 33 percent of those surveyed said that they have postponed scheduled medical care payments due to cost.

Dire concerns: Twenty-seven percent of respondents said that the delayed treatment in their family was for a condition that was considered to be “very” or “somewhat” serious, while 11 percent of those surveyed said the delayed treatment was for a condition considered to be “not very” or “not at all” serious.

The latest Gallup poll was conducted from Nov. 9 to Dec. 2 with a total of 1,020 respondents. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Read more here.


Moderna’s vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was 83 percent effective at preventing lower respiratory tract disease in adults aged 60 and older in a large clinical trial, the company announced on Tuesday.

Based on the results, Moderna said it intends to submit the vaccine for Food and Drug Administration approval in the first half of 2023.

Moderna said the vaccine was 83.7 percent effective at preventing two key symptoms, like fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

The vaccine was 82.4 percent effective at preventing severe RSV cases with three or more symptoms present, the company said.

Why it’s important: There is no vaccine for RSV in either adults or children. In healthy adults and older children, RSV typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms that go away with moderate rest and self-care. But it can result in severe illness in infants and older adults.

The announcement puts Moderna into a crowded marketplace of RSV vaccines for older adults, including giants GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.

Both companies have applied for FDA approval of their respective RSV vaccines and expect decisions in May.

Read more here.

Walgreens lifts online limit for children’s pain meds

Walgreens has lifted a limit it placed on online purchases of children’s pain medication after it received increased supply to address rising demand nationwide.

The retail and pharmacy chain announced last month that it needed to limit the amount of child pain relief products that a consumer can buy to six per online transaction to avoid excess buying. The company said its retailers throughout the country were struggling with supplier fulfillment issues from the heightened demand.

  • But Walgreens said in a statement on Monday that it was able to remove the limit as a result of increased stock of its over-the-counter children’s fever-reducing products.  

  • “Walgreens has worked diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have enough supply to meet customer demand nationwide,” the statement reads.

CVS also announced a limit on online and in-store purchasing of pediatric pain relievers, to two per customer, at the same time Walgreens announced its own last month.

Many children throughout the country have been affected by what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Read more here.


  • Sickle cell cure brings mix of anxiety and hope (The New York Times)

  • Airplane lavatories deliver new hope for the CDC’s variant hunt (Politico)

  • 988 Lifeline sees boost in use and funding in first months (NPR)


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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