“I hope this program can serve as a model for other states in New England and across the country,” Lesser said
SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed a new report by Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, which lauded the success of the state’s Narcan bulk purchasing program.
More than 50,000 people in Massachusetts are now trained in administering the overdose-reversing drug, Dr. Bharel told the Public Health Council on Jan. 11.
In January 2015, Lesser filed a bill that served as a blueprint for the Senate’s proposal for Massachusetts to order naloxone, the opiate overdose-reversal drug commonly known as Narcan, at a discounted price through a statewide bulk purchasing program.
The program went into effect in December 2015, after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office negotiated an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Narcan, to pay $325,000 into the trust fund supporting the program. These funds were added to the $100,000 already allocated to the program by the Massachusetts Legislature in the 2016 state budget.
“Narcan is an indispensable tool in combating the opioid epidemic in our Commonwealth. This bulk purchasing program will allow more of our police, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders to administer this drug, and help save lives in the process,” Lesser said at the time.
Since then, the program has done just that — save lives.
“Over 1,500 overdose rescue reports — each a life saved — were received in the first six months of 2016. This is a 21 percent increase from the same time-period in 2015,” said Dr. Bharel. Training in the life-saving treatment accelerated in 2016, after the bulk purchasing plan went into effect.
“The Narcan bulk purchasing program was a perfect example of how legislation can effectively solve a problem and ultimately save lives,” Lesser said. “I am grateful that we were able to have such an impact, and have begun to turn the tide on the opiate epidemic in Massachusetts. I hope this program can serve as a model for other states in New England and across the country.”
The payment from Amphastar Pharmaceuticals was enough to cover the cost of about 10,000 doses of Narcan, the Springfield Republican reported at the time.
Nearly 1,300 people in Massachusetts died of an unintentional opiate-related overdose in 2014, representing a nearly 60 percent increase since 2012. Opioids now kill more people in Massachusetts than car accidents and guns combined.
The number of opioid overdose-related fatalities in Western Massachusetts would be 13 to 14 times higher if not for Narcan’s role, according to Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan.