Questions Surround Price Hike for Heroin Antidote

Law enforcement personnel are wondering why the price of Narcan has nearly doubled.

By Michael Hill

Twenty-five-year-old recovering heroin addict Ashley Gibbons describes the grip the drug had on her.

“It just becomes the devil in powder form,” she said.

Ashley’s alive today because her mother — trained in administering Narcan or Naloxone — used the antidote to reverse Ashley’s near-death overdose in April.

“I just remember saying, ‘I don’t want to die’,” she said.

Heroin attacks the brain’s receptors, slowing and shutting down the body. Narcan frees up the receptors bringing addicts back to life.

Ashley’s one of 361 lives saved in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

The AG says since April, 477 New Jersey law enforcement agencies have been trained in administering Naloxone.

And 444 agencies carry it on patrol.

Mahwah police have saved two lives — one a New York iron worker and the other a former police officer.

Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli says the first round of kits cost $53. The second round shot up to $93 per kit.

“We actually thought it a was mistake, a typographical error when we got the invoice,” Batelli said. “I assure you if the price of gasoline when from $2.70 to $6, the government would look into it.”

Bergen County police say they equip all their patrol cars with Narcan and the price hike seems unreasonable.

“It’s difficult to keep up with. Narcan has a shelf life. So even when we don’t use it, it’s going to come a point where we have to cycle it out,” said Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins.

The maker of Narcan — Amphastar — has not returned numerous NJTV News calls for a response to the price hike and the criticism.

“It’s disappointing,” said Frank Greenagel Jr.

Greenagel chaired the New Jersey Heroin Opiate Task Force from 2012 to 2014.

“As demand continues to go up someone else might enter the market and manufacture this as well and so we’ll have some competition,” he said.

For now, Ocean County’s prosecutor says the Justice Department should take a look at this.

And the president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey Sean Dalton says, “No good deed goes unpunished. New Jersey law enforcement appears to be a victim of its successful rollout of the Narcan program. The manufacturer’s decision to increase the cost of this drug by 120 percent when people’s lives are at stake is reprehensible. There appears to be no reason for this increase other than a blatant opportunity to increase their profits. We are reviewing our options to address this situation.”

In the meantime, some law enforcers say they can see a day when Narcan becomes mandatory for officers to carry because it’s proven to save lives.

“I haven’t been ‘this’ Ashley in a very long time,” said Ashley.

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