Emergent taps ex-NFL star to bring opioid message to college football tailgate parties

Emergent BioSolutions is rushing to get the message out about its opioid overdose treatment Narcan, partnering with former NFL star Emmitt Smith to spread the word at college football tailgates.

Maryland-based Emergent launched an over-the-counter version of Narcan in August and began to tell consumers that “anyone can save a life” if they are ready “at home, at work or on the go with Narcan nasal spray.” Weeks later, the company has partnered with Smith, a record-breaking running back who played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1990 to 2002, to help get its message to more people.

Together, Emergent and Smith are kicking off "Ready to Rescue," a campaign designed to drive discussion about the risks of opioids and the actions that can save lives when someone overdoses. The campaign is personal for Smith. 

“Losing teammates to accidental overdose and watching family members struggle with addiction has made me realize how serious the opioid epidemic is,” Smith said in a statement. “As a father of five, I make sure to talk to my kids about the risks associated with opioids, and I want to use my voice to help keep our loved ones and communities safe by urging everyone to have Narcan Nasal Spray on hand.”

Emergent is particularly keen to reach younger people. Noting that opioid misuse and dependency are highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 years, the company outlined plans to travel with Smith to talk to people at college football tailgates, events where people gather to eat and drink before games. 

The focus on tailgates reflects evidence that student athletes and college campuses are vulnerable to opioid misuse and dependency for reasons such as peer and performance pressure, stress and curiosity. Emergent will hold Narcan demonstrations and distribute Ready to Rescue kits at the events, which will take place across the U.S. this month.

Emergent is working to capitalize on its first-mover advantage in the OTC space and grow Narcan sales to between $425 million and $445 million this year. Companies including Teva and Hikma compete for the prescription space, but Emergent has a brief monopoly in the OTC market. Harm Reduction Therapeutics plans to start selling an OTC opioid overdose drug early next year.