Overdose drug saves 116 lives this year

By Adam Rollins, Record Staff Writer
Posted 6/12/17

Over the last year, EMS, fire and police agencies in Warren County have given 116 life-saving treatments to people who had overdosed on opioid drugs, thanks to the  counter-drug Narcan. Also known …

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Overdose drug saves 116 lives this year


Over the last year, EMS, fire and police agencies in Warren County have given 116 life-saving treatments to people who had overdosed on opioid drugs, thanks to the  counter-drug Narcan.

Also known by the generic name naloxone, Narcan has become a more commonly available tool for first responders in the wake of an epidemic of opioids, including heroin, across the U.S.

About 100 emergency personnel in the county now carry and are trained to administer the life-saving treatment, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Information from local agencies documents a total of 117 overdose cases in which Narcan was administered, one of which was stated to be unsuccessful. However, because patient information is kept private, it is possible one or more people could have been counted multiple times in that number.

Many doses of the drug have been provided through grants from organizations such as the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA). The price and availability of Narcan can vary significantly based on the supplier and what delivery system is packaged with the drug. Each dose can cost anywhere from $25 to $125.

Prefilled nasal spray canisters, which are the easiest to administer, also tend to be the most expensive. Pre-filled syringes and vials of the generic drug cost less, but require more training to administer through injection.

The cost of Narcan/naloxone administered locally this year is in the range of $3,500, although some of that cost is covered by grants.

Narcan is usually administered in 4 milligram doses. Patients typically respond within one to five minutes, depending on whether the dose is delivered as a nasal spray or injected directly.

Patients still require EMS care after the effects of an overdose are treated, and sometimes need multiple treatments because the effects of opioids can last longer than that of Narcan.

Even with Narcan being carried by more first responders, opioid drugs have still taken their toll on local communities. Warren County Coroner Glenn Craig said at least five people have died this year from opioid overdoses. Two other deaths are suspected to involve opioids, pending the results of toxicology tests.

Last year, four people died of opioid overdoses, as well as four in 2015, Craig said.

By the numbers

Warren County Ambulance District has administered 99 doses of Narcan so far this year. The total number of uses in 2016 was 148. Ambulance District Administrator Ralph Hellebusch said the number of calls for opioid overdoses can vary significantly from month to month with no clear cause.

The district has 45 EMS personnel who are all trained to administer the drug.

The ambulance district pays $25 per injectable dose out of its operating budget, and the cost of the dose is billed to the patient or their insurance, Hellebusch said.

Marthasville Community Ambulance District has administered 10 doses of the drug this year. There are 20 full- and part-time staff in the Marthasville district who can administer Narcan.

Marthasville Ambulance Chief Ann Cleavelin said the district prefers prefilled syringes at a cost of $54 per dose, which is paid from the district’s supply budget.

Warrenton Fire Protection District has administered three doses of Narcan since it was introduced to the department in January. Ten staff members currently are trained for the drug.

The fire department currently receives its supply of Narcan through a grant from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. If grant funding were to end, Chief Mike Owenby said the department would find another grant or pay for the drug from its own funds.

“At this point it’s such a necessary treatment that it doesn’t matter what it costs. We’ll figure out a way to get it,” Owenby said.

Wright City Fire Protection District also receives Narcan through NCADA. Five doses have been administered by the department since February, reversing the overdose effects in four of the patients.

There are 15 fire department staff in Wright City trained to administer the drug.

Assistant Fire Chief Josh Riebe said although Narcan currently is provided through an NCADA grant, the fire department eventually will be responsible for the cost of replacing the drug.

Officers with Warrenton Police Department also carry doses of Narcan. Officers haven’t administered the drug to any patients since being approved to carry it earlier this year, Chief Larry Ellard said.