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Naloxone price spike felt by emergency responders

Naloxone price increase
Price increases for drug used to treat heroin overdoses 01:59

INDIANAPOLIS --  It’s late night in Indianapolis and paramedics have once again used naloxone, sometimes referred to as Narcan, to treat yet another person who overdosed on heroin.

“It saved my life,” one man says. 

Larry Brake is a paramedic. He says naloxone is “extremely critical” for him.  “You know, it’s a real lifesaver,” he says. 

Several cities, including Indianapolis, contacted by CBS say they are spending more taxpayer dollars on naloxone because the price has doubled and they are using more.

Emergency responders like Brake have to also use multiple doses to counter stronger opiates.

Brake says he has given up to six doses of naloxone to a patient, which he admits “is a lot.” 

Opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, compared with 21,000 in 2010. 

Emergency responders are using naloxone more as overdoses have increased. CBS News

“Nothing changes about the medication -- it’s not new and improved, it’s just in higher demand and it’s in response to a public health emergency, and I just don’t think that’s the time to suddenly raise the price,” said Dan O’Donnell, the medical director for Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services.  

Although the government and first responders often refer to naloxone as Narcan and it was originally called Narcan when it was approved, the only naloxone product with the current brand name Narcan is a nasal spray. The makers of that nasal spray, Adapt Pharma, told CBS News its price has not gone up since it was put on the market in 2015.

Naloxone manufacturers point out that some prices have remained fairly steady since 2014, and say they also offer discounts and grants that make their products affordable for many people and agencies.

But lifesavers like Larry Brake worry affordability may not keep up with demand.

Meanwhile out in the field, he’s seeing people who are “just you know, literally dying, you know? And they, they need the Narcan.”

Indianapolis EMS had to administer naloxone to suspected overdose patients more than 629 times in 2013. In 2016, that number jumped to over 1,800.

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