The use of the life-saving anti-overdose drug Naloxone is on the rise in Knox County, and 10Investigates is looking into the cost.
Knoxville Police have saved at least 37 lives since they began carrying Naloxone last year – and frequently, viewers ask 10News what is costs to provide this drug.
For some families, the need is clear -- Angela Palmer will never forget the night her daughter overdosed.
“She was blue and had one heartbeat per minute,” she said. “My husband called 911.”
She had been clean for a more than a year, but she relapsed. The first responders that arrived administered Naloxone, and brought her back.
It’s a scenario playing out more often across Knox County.
“We’ve probably seen a good increase of two-to-three times over the last several years as far as use,” said Chris McLain, clinical manager for the Rural/Metro ambulance division. “At this point, we’re using it about 30-to-40 times a week, so upwards of 120 times a month.”
At that rate, the costs begin to add up. Rural/Metro buys their kits at $37.50 a dose. At their current usage, that’s about $54,000 a year. McLain said none of that is passed on directly to taxpayers, since the county is billed a flat fee every month, no matter what the operating costs are.
"I would never put money on a life,” said McLain. “It doesn't matter how much it costs, it's about making a difference."
As for Knoxville Police, the department bought 50 doses at $53.69 to launch their program last year. Now, they have several hundred doses on hand, bought in bulk at $33.34. All of their purchases were paid for with a one-time grant. The department expects it will take months, if not years, to go through their current supply.
“It saves lives,” said KPD deputy chief Gary Holliday. “It does what we're supposed to do, what the fire department is there for – we're saving lives for folks, regardless of circumstance.”
But what about the cost for the average person to carry Naloxone? 10News found the cost can vary depending on where you get the drug. For a single dose, paid in cash it can run anywhere from $18.99, to about $40 depending on store and delivery method.
And if you’re looking for the name-brand drug Evzio, which audibly coaches someone through the injection process, you’re looking at anywhere from $2,000 to $4,500.
TennCare recently began covering the nasal dose of Naloxone as of March 1.
“I think it needs to be more low-cost so more people can have access to it,” said Palmer. “It’s just a godsend to be able to have that. I think it should be affordable to anyone no matter if they can pay or not. They should have access.”
She carries a dose with her always now. She said for it to be out of reach doesn’t seem fair to other families.
“They wouldn’t be able to save their loved ones, because they wouldn’t be able to afford it,” she said.