Ohio fire departments to get Narcan rebate

One pharmaceutical company is offering a $6 rebate for every naloxone syringe bought by non-federal first-responder agencies

By Ann Sanner
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Police chiefs, sheriffs and other first responders around Ohio heard from callers at the state attorney general's office on Thursday as part of a phone-bank effort aimed at spreading information about the availability of a drug-overdose antidote.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, above car crashes.

The state recently extended a deal with the maker of naloxone to provide rebates to public agencies that buy the lifesaving drug. California-based Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. is providing a $6 rebate for each naloxone syringe bought by a non-federal public entity in Ohio.

Ohio also has committed $1 million over two years to help county health departments provide naloxone to law enforcement and other emergency personnel.

Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine said some local law enforcement authorities have resisted carrying the drug because of liability concerns — a decision, he said, that was their right to make.

"We also have the right to call them up and urge them to do it," DeWine told reporters at his downtown Columbus office.

Staff from the attorney general's office joined others from several state agencies to host a phone bank on Thursday to inform local entities about how to get naloxone. Callers planned to dial up 967 police departments around the state and then reach out to fire departments.

DeWine said he didn't know how many of Ohio's law enforcement agencies keep the drug on hand.

Naloxone, sometimes called by its trade name, Narcan, blocks the effects of opiates and opioids. It can quickly allow an overdose victim to breathe again and is not addictive.

Dublin Police Chief Heinz von Eckartsberg was among those making phone-bank calls on Thursday. His officers in suburban Columbus have access to the drug, and von Eckartsberg said he didn't view liability as much of an issue.

"Because even if you give it to someone who you think is having an opiate overdose, it's not going to harm them if you're wrong. So what's the harm of trying?" he said. "I'd hate to have a situation where we could have saved someone and not been able to do it."

A record 2,482 people in Ohio died from accidental overdoses in 2014.

State public safety officials have said naloxone was administered more than 16,000 times in Ohio in 2015.

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