NEW YORK CITY — The city and state announced Monday that they entered into an exclusive one-year deal with the makers of an anti-overdose drug to quicken the time it takes to get the medication into the hands of first responders.
The city has allocated about $7.836 million through various agencies to buy the drug naloxone this year, while the state Department of Health will kick in $7 million.
The one-year agreement with Adapt Pharma, producer of Narcan, does away with the piecemeal process of dealing with different distributors to get naloxone and creates a central ordering system that can get the drug to them in as little as a day.
"They have a lot of individual groups doing a lot of individual things," said Thom Duddy, executive director of communications for Adapt Pharma. "They wanted to ensure that it was consistent and that everybody has equal access."
Previously, each agency was responsible for sourcing naloxone with separate contracts from different distributors, which could vary widely in price and the time it takes to receive the product, Duddy explained.
"The Health Department has distributed over 45,000 naloxone kits so far in calendar year 2017," city officials said in a statement to DNAinfo, adding the price has usually been between $60 to $75 per kit.
Under the new agreement with NYC Health + Hospitals and the city and state's Department of Health, organizations can now visit the same spot to order the medication and receive it directly from Adapt. Law enforcement agencies, first responders and opioid-prevention programs will all have access to the system, officials said.
Officials praised the move as a way to help get the life-saving drug in the hands of more people.
"A key goal of HealingNYC, our effort to address the opioid crisis, is to put naloxone in the hands of everyday New Yorkers who may witness an overdose," said Dr. Mary Bassett, the city's Health Commissioner, in a statement.
“This partnership will greatly enhance our efforts by placing ready-to-use Narcan-brand naloxone in the hands of non-medically trained New Yorkers.”
Other states that struck deals with Adapt have set aside a certain amount of money to purchase Narcan, either in bulk or throughout the year, but New York doesn't have a set price and can buy as little or as much as needed, Duddy said.
Duddy could not comment on the price per unit for Narcan in the agreement, but the company has charged $75 per two doses to other states.
In the city budget, the Department of Health has earmarked $4.2 million to buy the drug this year, with Health + Hospitals allocating $828,000 and the NYPD contributing $17,950. The DOH has $6.2 million allocated for naloxone kits next fiscal year.
The city has been in the throes of an opioid epidemic for more than a decade, with Staten Island and The Bronx being hit the hardest. Last year, 1,374 people died from drug overdoses, a 46 percent increase from the previous one, according to the DOH.
Officials blamed the recent spike on the introduction of fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin — which has been added to heroin batches. Fentanyl was found in 44 percent of all overdoses last year.
The city has tried to combat the number of fatal overdoses by working to "flood the streets" with naloxone, which essentially reverses the effect of an overdose.
NYPD officers have saved 140 lives citywide with the drug so far this year.
On Staten Island alone, a total of 148 people have been saved so far this year by either police or other individuals administering the drug, according to the district attorney's office.
In 2015, the city started selling naloxone without a prescription at pharmacies around the city, and increasing access to the drug was a major part of the city's nearly $40 million HealingNYC plan to combat the opioid epidemic.
Aside from making it quicker to get naloxone, Duddy said Adapt's version of the drug is also faster and easier to use than others, as well as including a higher dosage.
While naloxone typically used by the city requires users to assemble a plastic syringe before they can administer the drug nasally, Narcan is ready to go out of the package.
It also comes in a 4 milligram dose, compared to 2 milligram for most others, and is more concentrated than other brands, Duddy said.
"You had to be trained on how to use these devices, then you put it on a shelf and then six months later we’re standing over somebody we care about and now we’re trying to figure out how to assemble this thing," he explained.
"We wanted to take that off the table and make it so that anybody can use it, and it was the right dose so that it can be deployed rather rapidly."