In light of the aggressive opioid epidemic the U.S. is currently struggling with, health officials in West Virginia have announced health facilities will start distributing more than 8,000 free lifesaving Naloxone kits, otherwise known as Narcan.
Up to date, Wes Virginia recorded the highest percentage of drug-induced deaths. According to the doctors, a $1 million federal grant will fund the distribution of the antidote. Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health, Dr. Rahul Gupta describes Narcan as a lifesaving drug capable of reversing the respiratory depression and revive victims of opiate and opioid overdose, if administered in a timely manner.
“This collaboration represents an essential step toward turning around West Virginia’s staggering overdose statistics”, added Dr. Rahul Gupta.
According to federal data, 725 overdose deaths have been recorded in West Virginia in 2015, with 41.4 out of 100,000 people succumbing to the effects of the opioid epidemic, the highest rate registered nationwide. Specialists expect little improvements for 2016 and continue to fight against the opioid epidemic.
Even though the number of overdose deaths has steadily increased over the last few years, Dr. Gupta says that drug-related deaths have not yet peaked. He believes that preliminary data for last year to increase even further, as more toxicology results are being recorded.
Last year, local emergency medical services agencies administered roughly 4,200 Naloxone doses. In comparison, only 3,300 doses were used in 2015, and 2,160 in 2014. Moreover, Dr. Gupta said doses administered to overdose victims by first responders, urgent care centers, family members, and hospital emergency departments were not recorded.
An increasingly use of the lifesaving drug has been reported by these aforementioned entities, in spite of the rising prices of Naloxone. A study conducted last year showed that the increase in the price of Narcan could hinder the health experts’ efforts to reduce overdoses. Per last year’s findings, the price of an antidote kit with two doses of Narcan rose to $4,500. In percentage points, this translates to a 500 percent increase over two years.
According to health experts, half of the free antidote kits will go out in the upcoming weeks to high priority areas, including fire and police departments and needle-exchange programs in the cities of Charleston, Morgantown, Huntington, Wheeling, and other rural and urban areas.
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