NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the demand for Narcan grows across the country, the cost has risen too.
For Nashville paramedics, Narcan is now as necessary as the cardiac and diabetic treatment drugs they carry on their ambulances.
“We keep plenty in our bags and in the cabinet. We always have some on us,” said paramedic Nicole Royce.
The number of doses on each ambulance has increased along with the demand.
“Just last year we were carrying four doses of Narcan,” said EMS Commander Joaquin Toon. “We have now increased our Narcan inventory to a minimum of 10 doses per ambulance.”
Sometimes that isn’t enough. Two weeks ago, an ambulance ran out of Narcan during its shift.
“That’s essentially unheard of for us to run out of a medication before we can make a response,” said Toon.
But opioid overdoses have become so common that paramedics will administer Narcan to an unresponsive patient even if they’re sure they’ve overdosed, since there are no negative side effects.
“That’s just one of the things we rule out – that it’s not an overdose of opiates,” said Royce.
As the demand for Narcan has risen, so has the cost.
In 2014, one dose of Narcan cost the Nashville Fire Department $13.06.
Just two years later in 2016, the cost was $32 a dose.
Now, Davidson County spends about $65,000 a year on Narcan for the fire department alone.
Toon told News 2 they have enough money in their budget to cover the cost, but soon they may have to ask for more just to make sure they have the life-saving drug on hand.
“It’s a terribly expensive drug, but who’s to question the price of a medication used to resuscitate or save a life? It’s hard to put a value on that medication,” said Toon.
Nashville fire is also stockpiling Narcan because when a drug becomes popular, it could go on backorder.
Learn more about Narcan: The New Norm
Read more on Tennessee’s Opioid Crisis at wkrn.com/opioids.