Attorney general announces deal on drug overdose treatment

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced Thursday that he has made a deal with the manufacture of an antidote to opioid overdoses, making the drug more available and cheaper for emergency responders.

As the epidemic of opioid abuse grows in Wisconsin, law enforcement, first responders, EMS, state and local agencies, and some community-based organizations who buy more than 48 nasal spray doses, will be able to purchase NARCAN Nasal Spray at a 40 percent discount until February 15, 2018. Schimel at a press conference in Wausau said he partnered with the manufacturer, Adapt Pharma to make the drug more available and save more lives.

NARCAN is the brand name for the drug known as naloxone. It is used as an antidote for those who overdose on prescription opioid medication, heroin, and fentanyl.

A two dose pack of 4 milligrams of NARCAN normally costs $125, which will now be available to those eligible for $75. South Area Fire District spoke with NewsChannel 7 and said while they use an injection form of NARCAN, they have seen an increase the number of calls warranting its use.

When asked if the increasing availability of naloxone is contributing to the rise in abuse, S.A.F.E.R. safety and public information officer, Bert Nitzke responded, "unfortunately yes. I think we're seeing an increase of those calls because people are using it more because they know that it's an option out there that will help them if they do fall into that lull."

Asking Schimel the same question, he said when he first became attorney general, he felt increased availability would make addicts and users "invincible." He has since gained a new understanding.

"We've learned that once people become addicted to opiates, they're not going to stop using because they're afraid of dying," he explained. "We know that, for instance when I was a D.A. in Waukesha County, we knew in our drug treatment court, on average, people coming into our drug treatment court had been brought back to life by NARCAN seven times. Seven times they've been at the brink of death and they still went back to using because they're not making a rational choice. They're decisions are being controlled by the drugs."

Schimel insisted that this discount comes with the plan to have these users recover from their addiction. He said if they are not alive, that is an opportunity lost for them to be saved from their addiction.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has called for a special legislative session to fight heroin abuse.