DES MOINES, Iowa - The Des Moines Police Department is considering adding an anti-overdose drug to its force to combat heroin overdoses.
Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill into law in April making access to the anti-overdose drug, Narcan, available over the counter. Before that, the drug was limited to first responders only. The drug is known to bring a victim of a heroin or other opioid overdose back to consciousness within 15 seconds of nasal injection. Law enforcement and other first responders, as well as the general public, already used Narcan across state lines in Illinois, prompting Iowans to push for it to become legal for over-the-counter purchase earlier this year.
"It's certainly a good idea that that was done, and we've seen a couple of cases already here in the city of Des Moines where that medication has been pushed by a family or a friend prior to us getting to the scene, and it's truly a life-saving drug, so the quicker you can get it on board, the better outcome for that patient," said Tony Sposeto with the Des Moines Fire Department.
DMFD first responders have used Narcan since the 1960s, Sposeto says. As DMPD officials look into the decision to equip officers with Narcan, Sposeto points out that in town, first responders usually arrive on-scene before or just shortly after police. It's in rural areas, Sposeto says, where first responders can take longer to make it to an overdose victim, and so equipping state troopers and deputies with Narcan could really make a difference in saving someone's life.
"So there are circumstances where you may have a police officer, deputy, or sheriff in those areas that may be on scene well into 10 or 15 minutes prior to advance life support getting there," he said. "And in those circumstances, I know they are looking very heavily into that."
Cost is one thing Des Moines police will consider; at $75 per two-pack, and with a need for 165 packs, the department will have to decide if the cost is worth the need. Sposeto says heroin overdoses are on the rise in central Iowa by 20 percent, with 137 times the drug was administered so far this year, compared to the 114 times it was administered in 2015. Storing it at the correct temperature is another logistical issue.
"We have temperature-controlled drug drawers that keep the medication at a FDA-recommended 58-76 range to keep the integrity of the medication throughout its course to expiration," Sposeto said.