Utahns are dying from overdoses & medicine to help is skyrocketing in costs


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – More than 10 Utahns die every week from an overdose, according to the Utah Naloxone. The organization also says it’s the leading cause of injury death.

A medicine that can help reverse an overdose and save lives is skyrocketing in costs.

Anthoney Young could have been part of the statistics mentioned above, but he has a second chance at life.

“I feel great! I feel strong! I’m definitely proud of who I’ve become,” Young told ABC4 News.

There was a point in Young’s life where drugs consumed his world. His addiction started with Oxycontin and then moved to heroin.

He says due to the drugs his life spiraled out of control.

“My darkest time, when I overdosed in front of my children,” he recalled.

ABC4’s Brittany Johnson first interviewed Young in April 2019 when he was still taking part in a treatment program at Odyssey House. He has since graduated.

“I successfully completed Odyssey House, terminated probation, was able to move out of sober living and into my own apartment, and I gained full-time employment. I have a healthy relationship with my kids. I get to see them every weekend. As well as rebuild healthy relationships with my family,” Young said, with a big smile on his face.

“The greatest feeling is them telling me I’m the best dad in the world.”

That’s something Young’s kids wouldn’t be able to tell him today if he wasn’t revived from the brink of death with Naloxone.

Naloxone effectively reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, but medical experts say the rising price is limiting overall access to the life-saving medicine.

“Some forms of it are very expensive. There’s a talking device auto-injector that actually costs over $4,000 for something that probably costs a nickel to make, in terms of the medicine itself,” explained Jennifer Plumb, Medical Director for Utah Naloxone.

Plumb says the price hike places on the burden on community groups, small harm reduction programs, and small law enforcement agencies.

“There’s a public interest pricing available for the nasal kits that’s $75. So, that’s thousands and thousands of dollars for an agency that didn’t have that built-in their budgets but they believe in saving lives” she said.

In 2018, Utah Naloxone distributed 48,000 Naloxone Kits. Utah Department of Health Standing Order distributed 2,794 and Utah Department of Health Opioid Overdose Outreach Providers distributed 10,716, according to Health.Utah.gov.

Utah Naloxone is one of the organizations that’s been able to keep Naloxone prices affordable and distribute them to the community for free.

“We are also really mindful of the fact that without us being able to do that, the state would have a different landscape when it comes to what Naloxone is,” Plumb said. “Say that the pricing structure that we are able to qualify for went away. Truly the Naloxone access in Utah would go down to a fraction,” she added.

Plumb says so far in 2019, the organization has handed out nearly 52,000 free doses of Naloxone.

“The more people that are equipped, the more people that are able to save lives. But that also means that more people are needing to be equipped to potentially save lives because the crisis continues to be so real.”

“I know that feeling of no hope. I don’t ever want to be back there again,” Young told ABC4 News.

There are two upcoming training sessions to learn how to use Naloxone and to train others on how to use it. Information can be found on the flyers below.

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