Trending: Narcan costs skyrocket across the U.S.
Wider distribution and increases in opiate use has led to more demand for the drug used to treat an overdose
As more public safety agencies started stocking naloxone in 2014, the cost of the drug used to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose has skyrocketed in communities across the U.S.
EMS1 Columnist Michael Gerber reports that the past few years have seen the rapid rise of laws that allow naloxone (also known by the brand-name Narcan) administration by BLS providers, first responders, and even non-medical personnel, including police officers and civilian bystanders.
While public health authorities have identified wider access to naloxone as a priority for curbing the rising number of deaths from opiate overdoses, heroin and fentanyl use has also increased in many cities and towns.
As a result, increased costs for the drug are putting a strain on first responders’ budgets.
Seventeen states now use Narcan, and many officials are urging the federal government to step in so that it can be more widely distributed at a reasonable cost.
Here’s a look at what some communities are experiencing:
Seven years ago, Massachusetts paid $22 per Narcan kit. Today, that kit costs $42.
Rita Nieves of the Boston Public Health Commission attributes that increase to demand. "[The manufacturer] doubled the price because they know what they have in their hands — a life-saving tool that everybody wants to use now."
Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance said the cost of the drug has gone from $7 per bottle in 2014 to $98 per bottle in 2015.
“We’re always watching our budget,” Clinical Operations Supervisor Darin Wendel said. “There’s always times when we need to look at where some things we can be cut. We’ll never stop carrying Narcan.”
Capt. Todd Day, of the Middletown Division of Fire, said his department saw an increase of 55 percent in just three weeks, from about $27 a dose to $42 a dose. Narcan makes up 10 percent of the $90,000 the fire department spends on drugs.
“Our use has gone up 24 percent from last year to this year,” Day said. “We have a lot of heroin overdoses in the city of Middletown.”
Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services dispensed more than 1,000 doses of Narcan in 2014. By comparison, in 2013, only 629 doses were administered.
Officials successfully pushed for firefighters to administer the drug after the number of heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled. Overdose deaths due to opioids in the state rose from 195 in 2012 to 284 in 2013.
Heroin overdoses in W.Va. sap medic resources
Medics respond to two or three heroin overdose calls a day, and two police cruisers are now dispatched to accompany and protect EMS.
“It drains resources away from other medical emergencies we’re having,” said Capt. Mark Strickland, a Charleston Fire Department paramedic