‘Narcan is Staggeringly Expensive’

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The skyrocketing cost of Narcan—the lifesaving opioid antidote used to revive people in overdose—is impacting budgeting decisions for at least one South Jersey police department.

Pleasantville Chief Sean Riggin said the cost of a dose of Narcan has increased between 200% and 400% for his department (depending on how you estimate), while at the same time the number of doses the city uses has spiked.

“We had to put it in as a line-item in the budget this year,” he said.

“Narcan is staggeringly expensive.”

Riggin sat down with Breaking AC and Route 40 yesterday at Gary’s Restaurant in Pleasantville for an interview that covered a range of topics.


“Our budget is not increasing for next year, and our Narcan cost is, so other things are going to get cut,” he said.

Narcan—or Naloxone Hydrochloride—is produced by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., which has a market cap of about $850 million.

The drug is not new. It’s been around for decades, but demand has spiked as the opioid epidemic has reached crisis levels across the country. Narcan dramatically revives people overdosing on opioids, and may give abusers the sense they’re flying with a safety net—that if they overdose they’ll get help.

Many do overdose, of course, and die anyway.

“No matter how frustrating it is to treat somebody for Narcan three times in the course of a year…What’s the alternative?

“If my officers have the ability to save somebody’s life, they’re gonna,” Riggin said.

It’s not only abusers who may need access to Narcan. Two local detectives were recently injured when they inadvertently inhaled minute amounts of carfentinil, a powerful synthetic opioid estimated by the DEA to be thousands of times more powerful than heroin.

By some estimates the cost of some versions of Naloxone has gone up 17-fold in the last few years.

This past June, Senators Susan Collins, R.-Maine, and Claire McCaskill, D.-Missouri, sent a letter to drug makers asking them to explain price changes in light of the opioid crisis, saying increased costs could, “limit the reach of federal programs designed to support” expanded use of Narcan.

Amphastar has, reportedly, reached deals with certain states to sell the drug at reduced cost.

Riggin said Pleasantville pays $110 per dose, up from $55 for a two-dose kit a few years ago. The town would not limit Narcan stocks, but the cost hike would force cuts in other areas.

“When you look at my discretionary budget…it’s similar to the amount of money that I’ve allocated for training next year,” he said.

“So, do we send officers to drug interdiction training, or do we buy Narcan?’

You can watch the interview with Sean Riggin here:

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