Opioid deaths surge amid low supply of affordable naloxone available

Andrea Hancock
Posted at 5:17 PM, Nov 09, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As overdose deaths soar, one company is experiencing manufacturing issues with a drug that reverses them.

Andrea Hancock is an overdose prevention specialist, so she always has Narcan handy.

"A lot of people don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care," Hancock said. "So when you find individuals who have lived experiences, who can connect on a deeper level, individuals are likely to be inspired by hope, and to get the help that they need, and they deserve."

She's been in recovery for 15 years, but now her son is struggling. "I got that call one night where he overdosed, and she was able to administer the naloxone and reverse his opioid overdose," Hancock said.

Currently, Pfizer is reporting a manufacturing issue that has contributed to a low supply of affordable naloxone available. While other companies have supplies, it's usually more expensive. At SoberBuddy, Tara Schiller said advocates have felt the impact. They have an app to help people who are dealing with substance abuse.

"The biggest increase of use has been with mothers of children under 5," Schiller said.

She said people need to be aware of the dangers of fentanyl-laced pills. In Tennessee last year, reported overdose deaths increased 45% according to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. More than 3,000 people died. Since 2017, the state has distributed more than 232,000 units of naloxone and saved approximately 30,000 people.

"I am so grateful to be part of this whole endeavor of saving a life, again it hits different with me because again my son’s life has been saved," Hancock said.

Fortunately, Pfizer said the manufacturing issue should be resolved by the end of the year. Vial shipments will go out this fall. The depleted supply is not connected to vaccine production according to an email sent from a spokesperson. They are in communication with the Food and Drug Administration about the situation.

Across the country in 2020, it's believed that more than 93,000 people died from overdose deaths. For perspective, roughly 375,000 people died from COVID-19 last year.

Both Hancock and Schiller see a light at the end of the tunnel. "I do think we’re going to see a generation that comes up and says 'I’m not OK,' and 'I can talk about not being OK,' instead of just having to run into drug use," Schiller said.

If you or a loved one is battling addiction, you don't have to do it alone. You can call or text the Tennessee Redline at any time for access to recovery resources. That number is 800-889-9789.