The cost of another life-saving drug is skyrocketing while the need has never been greater. For the first time since fire departments started using the heroin antidote Naloxone on drug overdose calls, they will now have to start paying for the life-saving medication due to a loss of a state grant.
The cost of another life-saving drug is skyrocketing while the need has never been greater.
For the first time since the Rochester Fire Department started using the heroin antidote Naloxone on drug overdose calls, it will now have to start paying for the life-saving medication.
A state grant paid fire departments for Narcan, a brand name of Naloxone, but the grant has changed. So what does that mean for people in need as well as taxpayers?
Every fire crew in the city leaves their firehouse with two doses of Naloxone; not only is that proving to not be enough, but now the fire department will have to cover the cost of this life-saving drug.
"Anytime you increase the potency then changes to the need for more doses to a single individual is a possibility," says Lt. Darrin Batty.
On average, the Rochester Fire Department has anywhere from 15 to 30 of these cases a month. Lt. Batty runs the departments EMS service. In addition to the demand, firefighters are seeing another trend causing some concern.
"We're also seeing a slight increase in the field of when we get sent for an overdose; it’s not just one patient we're encountering, but we're seeing two patients or maybe three patients simultaneously."
And that means each fire crew will need to have four Naloxone kits on hand. This at a time when the cost of the drug has nearly doubled in some cases and a state grant that paid for fire departments to keep the kits in stock has changed. The grant will now cover police training and Naloxone kits for police cruisers. Batty says he's not seen anything like this.
"We've administered things like glucose and baby aspirin for heart attacks," says Batty. "Those are just routine sort of calls that we get on an everyday basis. The costs of those medications are fairly cheap. The volume that we're seeing in this particular scenario is higher than we've ever seen with anything else."
So what does this mean for taxpayers? Fortunately, while this will now have to come out of the fire department's budget, in some cases the city's ambulance company AMR restocks the fire department’s Naloxone. And that cost can now be passed on to patients. But Batty says the costs won't stop firefighters from fulfilling their oath to save lives.
"We'll meet that need the same way we always have and we'll manage the budget appropriately," he says.
The National Safety Council finds that overdoses kill more people than car crashes each year. Naloxone is now available over the counter, but those prices are expected to increase as well.