priceThe prescription opioid and heroin scourge continues to devastate American families; throughout rural and urban areas alike overdoses are a daily occurrence. While many lawmakers struggle to find ways to stem the tide of growing addiction rates, others in the field of law enforcement and public health have begun arming themselves with naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of overdose.

Unfortunately, police and public health officials across the country are facing sticker shock; the price of naloxone is surging by 50 percent or more in some cases, The New York Times reports.

When naloxone became available in a form which could be administered into the nasal passage using an atomizer (by someone outside the field of medicine), cities around the country began to equip law enforcement with kits containing the life saving antidote. In the past, when officers arrived on the scene of an overdose victim, there was nothing that could be done until medical personnel made it to the scene. Time is of the essence in overdose cases, how quickly naloxone is administered can be the difference between life and death.

In a number of places naloxone can be obtained by addicts and their family members without a prescription. The increase usage of naloxone between citizens and law enforcement has created a huge demand for the medication, a demand which is believed to have caused the spike in price.

“It’s not an incremental increase,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “There’s clearly something going on.”

A successful naloxone pilot program on Staten Island prompted the New York Police Department to say it would outfit its roughly 19,500 patrol officers with naloxone kits by this spring, according to the article. However, a New York Health Department spokeswoman said a more than 50 percent price spike for naloxone kits has officials “concerned.”

The increase in price for naloxone appeared to directly coincide with the move by police departments in large cities to outfit officers with the drug.

“We’ve had a pretty steady price for several years now,” said Matt Curtis, the policy director of VOCAL-New York, an advocacy group. “Then these big government programs come in and now all of a sudden we’re seeing a big price spike. The timing is pretty noticeable.”

The rising cost of naloxone could be detrimental to public health and police departments’ ability to acquire the drug. The affordability of naloxone could prove crucial to saving lives.