Emergency responders see naloxone price - and demand - on the rise
PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF) -- In a little orange box is a way to save someone from a fatal overdose.
For one local ambulance company, it's costing them $41.50 for just two milliliters of it: naloxone - the generic of Narcan.
"It might take one or two or three or four of these, just to get a patient to breathe again. Forget about being conscious," said Ed Szafran, Chief Paramedic with the Greater Pittston Regional Ambulance Company.
He says they get many of their medical supplies from Southeastern Emergency Equipment out of North Carolina, and that nine years ago, the exact same product cost $4.99.
It's gone up from there.
"In 2011 when our paramedic program went online it was $18.99 a dose. In 2018 as of Monday, it was $41.50 a dose," he said.
We asked if he'd seen any other drug increase in price in the last decade the way that naloxone has.
"No, no. Narcan's been the big one."
We reached out to Southeastern Emergency Equipment, who said they couldn't speak as to why the price had increased. They also would not comment on how much it cost to get naloxone from their manufacturer, International Medication Systems in California.
IMS could not immediately be reached for comment.
But Szafran says they are still less expensive than most other medical supply companies and retailers.
"It's a supply and demand type thing. They know there's a panic or a known problem and I think that there's a way that they can capitalize on it," he said.
And demand for naloxone has increased.
"We went from two years ago doing one or two vials, to now we're doing several every day," said Bruce Lefkowitz, pharmacist and owner of Harrold's pharmacy in Wilkes-Barre.
Not just for emergency responders, but local pharmacies.
"We're seeing family members and individuals coming in and buying it," said Lefkowitz.
And with the state physician general's standing order, you no longer need a prescription to get naloxone, you just have to fill out a brief form.
Lefkowitz says despite the prices, accessibility has expanded, with the order, and various ways to inject naloxone.
"So it's really been tremendous, and what's really nice about it is that many insurances companies are seeing the benefit of having this accessibility to Narcan and quite often we are seeing Narcan covered by insurance," he added.