Narcan Vending Machines Continue to Spread Across the Country

Michigan rolls out Narcan dispensers in 27 counties including jail locations and organizations specializing in harm reduction.

A National Association of Counties (NACo) article confirms 15 Narcan vending machines were installed across Michigan in 2022 and 20 more are set to be installed this year, offering free doses of the overdose reversal drug. Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice will be installing the dispensers with funding provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Currently Narcan is available at more than 1,575 pharmacies across Michigan and is covered by Medicaid and other forms of insurance. The article shared that health economists predict the new price to receive the drug over-the-counter will be between $35 and $65 before the retail markup, as reported in The New York Times.

The Behavioral Health and Justice Center at Wayne State University is working with Shaffer Distributing Co., which traditionally sells the vending machines for $3,400 to $11,000, to place the machines. In addition to providing Narcan at no cost, a draw of the vending machine structure is the anonymity it provides, as it doesn’t collect any identifiable information from those who use them. Officials discussed the benefit of anonymity for saving lives:

“I could walk up to any one of our machines right now, hit ‘33,’ a kit drops and I walk away and nobody’s the wiser,” Costello said. “You could go to a participating pharmacy and get a free kit of Narcan, but when we’d have some of our partners do that, they’d go to their doctor and shortly thereafter it would be on their medical record.

In 2017 the Maryland General Assembly passed the HOPE Act, allowing pharmacies to dispense naloxone, the non-addictive lifesaving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, to all Maryland citizens. Previously, naloxone was available only to those trained and certified under the Maryland Overdose Response Program. April of 2022 marked the installation of the first dispenser in Maryland, at the Washington County Health Department.

A number of bills from the 2023 legislative session were looking to address the continued opioid overdose concerns. One bill that passed and was covered on the Conduit Street Blog, SB 954, allowed for overdose response teams to choose their preferred formulation of medication for these purposes. With a stronger tool for overdose reversal programs, local health departments will be better equipped to manage the deadly and unprecedented flood of fentanyl cases, especially where locals teams are finding that the current single dosage amounts are not sufficient to reverse an overdose.

Other bills did not fare as well as SB 954. One concerned safe injection sites in HB 953. Another, HB 1215, was addressing the ability to receive criminal immunity while seeking medical help during an alcohol or drug overdose emergency. The 2024 legislative session is likely to continue seeing opioid remediation proposals from lawmakers looking to tackle the ongoing and evolving problem.

Read the full NACo article.