Firefighters in Cincinnati burning up with Narcan use

Firefighters in Cincinnati burning up with Narcan use
Updated: Oct. 8, 2015 at 3:24 AM EDT
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Cincinnati Firefighters are hosing down overdoses with the use of Narcan. Nothing new, but the amount may surprise you. Lt. David Bahler believes the fire department is on its way to over 200 uses for the month of October.

"It seems like a lot, but for us it's just another day in the office," Bahler said.

The facts back up his statement. As we were doing an interview, about the amount of times the fire department has used Narcan, we were interrupted. Bahler was telling me they city of Cincinnati was at 49 uses so far this month. At the time of this report, we were only seven days into the month, but them an alert came over the loud speaker inside Fire House 35 on Harrison Avenue in Westwood.

"I'm getting a run," he said. Bahler unplugged his microphone and was off to a call about a cardiac arrest.

He said it sounded like it might be an overdose. When he returned to finish the interview, he revealed his hunch was right. That become the 50th time they used Narcan on someone in October. In comparison, the city of Covington uses Narcan on emergency calls about 40 to 50 times a month.

"In the last year it has skyrocketed," Bahler said.

Matt Alter, president of Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48, said the amount of service calls involving Narcan don't surprise him anymore and with good reason.

"We've been as high as over 50 in one 24 hour period," said Alter.

And the cost of Narcan is not cheap. It's between $35 to $39 dollars. In contrast, David Geiger, EMS Director in Covington said many years ago it cost under 2 dollars per dose. Those days are gone.

"We are predicting it will take 17% of our supply budget," he said. The Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is aware of the price hike and has some concerns. His spokesperson sent us the following message:

In February 2015, Attorney General DeWine sent a letter to Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer of naloxone, asking them to provide rebates to police departments and other agencies that distribute the drug in Ohio after the company dramatically increased its prices.

According to Cuyahoga County Project DAWN, the wholesale price of Amphastar naloxone varied with their hospital distributor:

  • ?    Between $12.78 and $14.00 a vial in 2013 and early 2014
  • ?    By October 2014, the price jumped to $28.50 a vial

In March 2015, Attorney General DeWine reached an agreement with Amphastar. Amphastar agreed to provide a $6 rebate for each Amphastar naloxone syringe purchased by non-federal public entities in Ohio between March 2, 2015 - March 1, 2016. If Amphastar raises its wholesale price of naloxone during the term of the agreement, the company has also agreed to increase the rebate amount.

Attorney General Jack Conway in Kentucky also issued a statement: The Office of the Attorney General continues to monitor the situation along with the state Office of Drug Control Policy to ensure that supply of this lifesaving drug is not negatively impacted by any increased costs to acquire the drug.

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