Fire, police want Narcan rebate

The company increased its prices dramatically and will make efforts to save lives much more difficult without the rebate


HAMILTON, Ohio — Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking a maker of the drug that counteracts the effects of heroin and opiates to give rebates to consumers such as fire and police departments and other agencies that distribute the drug in the state after the company increased its prices.

Naloxone reverses the effects of opiates on the brain and can limit or stop an overdose when given to an individual overdosing on heroin or a prescription opiate.

Ohio’s use of the drug is steadily growing, with naloxone having been administered an estimated 74,000 times in the state between 2003 and 2012. More than 10,500 of those doses were administered in 2012 alone.

Emergency medical workers throughout the region are using the drug, often known as Narcan. And some police department are also exploring training and equipping police officers with the drug.

“Ohio has worked hard to get naloxone in the right hands,” DeWine wrote to Jack Zhang, Ph.D, Amphastar Pharmaceutical Inc.’s chief executive officer. “Without warning, Amphastar chose to dramatically increase its naloxone prices. This decision will make efforts to save lives much more difficult.”

In 2014, 55 people in Butler County died of a heroin overdose and another 24 deaths were from a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, according to the county coroner’s office.

The deadly trend has continued into 2015. In January, three deaths were officially ruled by the Butler County Coroner’s Office as heroin deaths. Another 26 drug overdose deaths are awaiting an official ruling, but heroin is suspected to be at least part of the cause, according to the coroner’s office.

According to Cuyahoga County Project DAWN, the wholesale price of Amphastar naloxone varied with their hospital distributor between $12.78 and $14 a vial in 2013 and early 2014. By October 2014, the price jumped to $28.50 a vial. This month, Amphastar reached an agreement with the state of New York on the cost of naloxone, resulting in a $6 rebate per dose. DeWine is requesting a similar agreement for Ohio.

Following a 2014 law allowing Ohio law enforcement officers to carry and administer naloxone, DeWine’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy created a training video on the administration of the drug. To date, more than 1,400 law enforcement officers have completed the course.The law also gave friends, family members or others who may be in the position to assist someone suffering from an opiate overdose the ability to administer naloxone as long as they receive the drug from a licensed health professional.

The prospect of a rebate “ is the only good news about this I have heard about this in a long time,” said Hamilton Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi, who is the former police chief.

In 2014, Hamilton EMTs administered 561 doses of Narcan with the average cost of $14 each. The cost has now increased to $32.32 a dose, Scrimizzi said. And to date, 99 Narcan doses have been administered in the city.

“At that rate it could blow the whole pharmaceutical budget,” said Scrimizzi, who added that the pharmaceutical budget for the fire department is $25,000.

Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said he too believes a rebate program is a good idea.

“Right now we are footing the bill and it’s expensive,” Muterspaw said. He added it is a rare day when at least one overdose call is not heard in Middletown.

Middletown police officers do not administer Narcan, but it is something the department is researching, Muterspaw said.

“Right now we are doing written research,” Muterspaw said. “But our firefighters get to calls pretty quickly. It is not like we are in a rural area where response times are longer.”

In January, Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli estimated firefighters have responded to approximately 200 calls for heroin overdoses that month. The cost of Narcan has increased nearly 100 percent, he said.

“Last year it was $24 a dose for Narcan, now it’s up to $42,” he said.

The fire department spent approximately $10,000 last year on Narcan, and Lolli said he expects to spend much more this year.

“If things keep going the way they’re going … my concern is it might be up to about $18,000,” he said.

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