The price of naloxone, a drug that can reverse a drug overdose, has skyrocketed. That’s affecting efforts to prevent overdose deaths. Michelle MacKenzie runs an overdose prevention program at the Miriam Hospital. She says when her program started buying and distributing the injectable overdose rescue drug naloxone, in 2006, it cost about a dollar a vial. Today it’s $15 a vial.
“So if we had to pay $15 a vial, I mean, last year we distributed upwards of 800 kits, which is 1600 vials of naloxone. We would have been like, 200. I mean, think about that,” said MacKenzie.
Two leaders of a heroin distribution ring have pleaded guilty in Superior Court in Providence to drug and weapons charges. The pleas come after a sixteen-month investigation to disrupt their drug trafficking organization.
Richard Pena and Henry Ortiz pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to deliver heroin and fentanyl. State police head Colonel Steven O'Donnell said that’s one result of months of work by a team of investigators from several agencies. The other is busting up a sizeable drug operation.
In the first 9 weeks of this year, 55 Rhode Islanders have died from apparent drug overdoses. Overdose has been the number one cause of accidental death in Rhode Island since 2008, but the problem has been drawing more attention in recent days because of the surprising number of deaths this year alone. Rhode Island Public Radio health care reporter Kristin Gourlay has been at work on a documentary about drug overdose and addiction since well before the flood of recent headlines.
Rhode Island's health department director says 45 Rhode Islanders have died from overdoses so far this year. Concerns are growing that a dangerous combination of heroin and Fentanyl is continuing to kill unsuspecting users. The state medical examiner is still investigating, but Fentanyl is suspected in many of these deaths. It's a powerful painkiller, up to 80 times more powerful than heroin. In combination it can kill even habitual users quickly. There's an antidote for overdoses from opioids like heroin and other painkillers. It's called Narcan.
A community forum on drug overdose and addiction drew a standing room only crowd at the Miriam hospital last night. Organizers hope to keep the conversation going beyond the evening’s speeches and questions.