Price of Narcan on the rise in Ohio

A fire department in Ohio saw an increase of 55 percent in the past three weeks, from about $27 a dose to $42 a dose

By Lot Tan

HAMILTON, Ohio — The price of a life-saving drug that counteracts the effects of a heroin overdose has increased by 55 percent in the past three weeks, according to local fire officials.

Capt. Todd Day, of the Middletown Division of Fire, said his department was paying about $27 a dose for naloxone, also known as Narcan, but as of Nov. 1, that same dose now costs $42. Day said the drug’s manufacturer gave fire officials advanced notice of the price hike but not a reason for it.

Day said he assumes the reason is that the cost of manufacturing the drug has gone up, demand for it has driven up the prices or a combination of both. Unfortunately, he said, taxpayers are the ones who will have to pay for the $15-per-dose increase.

“Last year, we spent a little over $6,000, and we are tracking this year somewhere between $9,000 to $10,000,” Day said, noting about 10 percent of the $90,000 the fire department spends annually on drugs and medicines is used solely to buy Narcan.

The heroin epidemic, he said, is “a drain on our resources on many levels, not just as a budgetary line item, but also a lot of other areas are affected. Families, the cost of rehab, cost of treatment, it’s really a sickness that’s destroying our community.”

Middletown isn’t the only fire department to report an increase in Narcan costs. Clearcreek Twp. Fire Chief Bob Kidd said his department will have to pay approximately $63 a dose for Narcan next month; they previously paid $28 a dose.

Narcan is used to treat drug overdoses. Paramedics typically administer Narcan to someone who has stopped breathing, Day said.

But the cost of Narcan isn’t the only thing going up; so too is the number of times the drug has been administered this year.

“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.”

Firefighters and paramedics have administered Narcan 271 times so far this year compared to 207 times in 2013, according to city records. Calls for possible drug overdoses is also up by 54 percent this year with 165 compared to 107 in 2013, city records show.

Kidd said Clearcreek Twp. has seen four times as many heroin overdoses this year compared to last. He said the township has had approximately 20 heroin overdoses so far this year and at least a few deaths because of the drug.

“Users don’t know or accept the long-term ramifications for their family and how that leaves them devastated after the loss,” Kidd said.

Day said the fire department averages about one call per day for drug overdoses. There were two reported drug overdoses in the city on Thursday, according to Middletown Division of Police records.

Winning the heroin battle “starts with awareness and education and treatment,” Day said. “Unfortunately, that costs money. Maybe the federal government or state government can help. We need more treatment centers and access for those people that don’t have health insurance.”

Rickey Chasteen, 48, has lived in Middletown all his life. Two days ago, officers and paramedics responded to a house a few doors down from his in the 200 block of North Sutphin Street for a possible heroin overdose, according to police records.

“Not surprised at all. Happens here all the time. It’s gotten worse over the years,” Chasteen said of the emergency calls.

He said approximately 20 of his friends have overdosed from heroin and other drugs and have died.

“It’s worse than any disease around here, worse than AIDS,” Chasteen said.


©2014 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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