Delco debuts new tool to combat overdoses

When seconds count during treatment for a drug overdose, a life-saving advancement debuted on Friday, Jan. 29 in Delaware County.

Joined by police chiefs and members of the Delaware County Heroin Task Force, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan and Delaware County Councilman Dave White announced on Friday, Jan. 29, that police officers in Delaware County will be first in the world to carry and administer a newly developed nasal version of naloxone for emergency treatment of an opioid overdose.

Developed by Adapt Pharma, located in Radnor Township with its global headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, the NARCAN spray was purchased by Delaware County Council through federal grant funding. Each of the nearly 400 police vehicles in Delaware County will be equipped with two applicators at a cost of $37.50 per dose.

Authorities believe it has been crucial for police in Delaware County to have naloxone since they are often first on the scene. Experts say those early minutes can be the key to saving a life. It is believed that the new NARCAN spray could make a life-saving difference in those moments because it is easier to use and requires no assembly.

“We are fortunate to have outstanding police officers here in Delaware County, many who consider naloxone just another tool to perform the job they are sworn to do,” said Whelan in a press release. “However, to us, and the families of those experiencing an overdose, they are heroes. Every day, they are literally bringing people back to life, who will hopefully seek treatment to overcome their addiction.”

While not a substitute for emergency medical care, timely administration of naloxone can help rapidly reverse the life-threatening breathing difficulties that an opioid overdose may cause until emergency medical care can be administered.

“We know the first few minutes, and even seconds are crucial when responding to an overdose. NARCAN nasal spray takes just seconds to open and use,” Delaware County Councilman Dave White said in the release. “Our goal is to equip our police officers with the most effective tools we can in order to save as many lives as possible.”

Delaware County became the first in Pennsylvania to save a life with naloxone after David’s Law was passed in Nov. 29, 2014, and the District Attorney’s Office partnered with police chiefs to develop a countywide naloxone program, funded by Delaware County Council through grants. The program has since become a model for police departments across the state.

In just over one year since that law was passed, police in Delaware County saved 170 lives with the use of naloxone, officials said. Yet, despite those efforts, the number of heroin-related deaths in Delaware County continues to rise, and doubled with an estimated 101 deaths in 2015 as compared to 52 in 2014, according to the Delaware County medical examiner.

Anyone who uses prescription opioids to manage chronic pain, or who uses heroin, is potentially at risk of experiencing an accidental, life-threatening or fatal opioid overdose from the misuse of those products, officials said.

According to Adapt Pharma, NARCAN nasal spray will be available to consumers to be dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription in the early spring from certain participating retail pharmacies. For more information and instructions on the use of NARCAN, visit www.narcannasalspray.com.

Currently, naloxone is available at various pharmacies throughout Delaware County. Family members and friends can access this medication by obtaining a prescription from their family doctor or by using a prescription written for the general public, issued by the Pennsylvania Physician General. The standing prescription is kept on file at many pharmacies, or can be downloaded from the Pennsylvania Department of Health website at www.health.pa.gov.

The FDA approved the NARCAN spray in November. Previously, naloxone was only approved in injectable form. Because a spray is easier to administer, some area first-responders had been putting the liquid into an atomizer, an extra step that is eliminated with the nasal spray.

Chester County officials said they are also considering a switch to the nasal spray. Good Fellowship Ambulance Club in West Chester, which leads Project Naloxone in Chester County, is in the process of researching the product, said Robert Kagel, director of the Chester County Department of Emergency Services.

 

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