Opioid Crisis: Prices of anti-overdose drugs are rising
SAN ANTONIO - The FDA is now considering whether doctors who prescribe opioid painkillers should go ahead and write a second prescription for anti-overdose agents.
We found the prices of life-saving drugs like Narcan are rising.
"We see the community and we're in the community every day," says Elizabeth McArthur from Bibliotech, a digital library on San Antonio's south side.
When she became a librarian, McArthur never imagined working with the public would put her on the front lines of the opioid crisis.
"We talked about what being a first responder for an opioid overdose means," she says. "It was a little bit intimidating, almost."
McArthur is now trained to use Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses an opioid overdose.
A federal grant paid for the training for San Antonio-area first responders as well as 17,000 doses of Narcan.
"If this federal grant money ever goes away, our first responders or our local agencies will have to foot that bill," says T.J. Mayes, coordinator of the Bexar County Joint Opioid Task Force.
He says the wholesale cost of a Narcan dose is about $20, but pharmaceutical companies charge up to $140 for the life-saving spray.
"In 2014, Narcan was a $20 million a year business. Since 2015, it's been a $274 million a year business," Mayes says.
There's now bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., to rein in the rising prices of Narcan and other anti-overdose agents. Meantime, Texas is one of 27 states suing opioid manufacturers.
"The pharmaceutical companies knew what they were doing in getting people hooked on these opioids, especially Oxycontin. And now they're making a buck on the back end, too," Mayes says. "And that just doesn't seem right. Doesn't seem right at all. It's like a tobacco company opening up a lung doctor's office. It doesn't pass the smell test to us."
Back at the library, McArthur hopes she'll never have to use Narcan to save a life but feels prepared for the responsibility.
"It does weigh on you a little bit to think maybe I'll have to save somebody's life, but the alternative is watching someone die," she says.
Please join News 4 on January 10 as we dig deeper into the opioid crisis through "Your Voice, Your Future," a town hall live from Laredo featuring national experts and families impacted by drug abuse.
By EMILY BAUCUM