Ohio Healthcare Organization to Spend $10M on Narcan Donations in Response to Lawsuits
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
Apr. 6—Faced with mounting lawsuits over its alleged role in the opioid crisis, Cardinal Health began distributing this week more than 80,000 doses of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.
The donations are being made to law-enforcement and first responders, primarily in Appalachian regions of Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee.
Dublin-based Cardinal pledged the donations this past year, as part of its "Opioid Action Program," building on previous efforts to combat opioid abuse. It said the initial investment through June of this year will be at least $10 million, and has said the program could expand to other parts of the United States.
Recipients had to submit a grant request for the Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, which is administered by nasal spray that is easy to use. The drug has been in short supply among many first responders because of lack of funds and a surge in demand as overdoses have spiked across the country.
"We are very appreciative ... the need has definitely increased," said Kate Siefert, administrator for Crawford County Public Health, which received the first half of the department's allotment of 1,260 doses Wednesday.
Siefert said the doses would be shared by deputies of the Crawford County and Marion County sheriff's offices, who will carry it with them to be able to quickly respond to emergencies. In addition to aiding overdose victims, she said that law-enforcement values having the drug for personal safety—for themselves and members of their K9 units—in case they are exposed to powerful opioids in the line of work.
Pharmacist Larry Schieber, of Schieber Family Pharmacy in Circleville, requested 216 doses to be distributed by the Circleville Fire Department and the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office to first responders.
"I knew about it because our Cardinal (sales) rep mentioned the program was available," said Schieber, who also serves on the Pickaway County Addiction Action Coalition. He said the Circleville area has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, being "right in the middle of it"—between Portsmouth and Columbus.
Narcan "is pretty expensive," Schieber said, "and in dealing with some of the powerful synthetic opioids, sometimes they're going through six doses to revive someone. I'm confident this will save lives."
As a pharmacist, Schieber said he's on the front lines of the fight against opioid abuse.
"It's been horrible," he said.
Cardinal and other distributors of opioids have been the subject of intense criticism and scrutiny for what some say is a role in the drug crisis. Cardinal has hundreds of lawsuits against it. The company's announcement last year of the Narcan donations didn't do much to mollify critics.
Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters union, has been a vocal critic of Cardinal and other distributors. Asked about Cardinal's donation program last year, he told The Dispatch it was like "giving out life rafts after you let the dam break," though he said it was a "good sign" and a "first step."
More information on Cardinal's Opioid Action Program is available at www.cardinalhealth.com/opioidactionprogram.