BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It can save lives, but Baltimore’s Health Department is being forced to ration Narcan.
Alex DeMetrick reports, preventing deaths from drug overdose has left the department trapped between increased demand for Narcan, and not enough money to buy what’s needed.
Narcan is the drug that can stop a drug overdose and save a life.
“The problem is that we just don’ have enough money to purchase more Narcan, and as a result we basically have to ration it,” says Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
Until next year, Baltimore City’s Health Department has about 4,000 doses of Narcan left, either in nasal spray or by injection.
“We are spacing them out, because we don’t want to use them all at once,” Dr. Wen says. “We want to give it to those who are at highest risk.”
Primarily through the department’s needled exchange program, since heroin users are at highest risk, especially now that powerful opioids are mixed in, often without users knowing.
That combination caused over 2,000 overdose deaths in Maryland last year, almost 700 of them in Baltimore. A city with 21,000 heroin users.
“If I got several thousand more units today, I could hand them out in the next week,” Dr. Wen says.
The city’s fire and medic units do have large supply of Narcan, but because first responders aren’t always the closest help, the Health Department has issued an open prescription for Narcan, to make it available at all city pharmacies.
The department’s website even includes a map, showing the location of all 49 pharmacies.
“If you’re on Medicaid you get Narcan for a dollar,” Dr. Wen says. “If you don’t have that dollar you get it for free. So I encourage everyone to go to their pharmacy today and get Narcan so you can save someone’s life.”
According to the Health Department, Narcan saved 800 lives last year in the city alone.