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One year later, sales of Narcan at Gundersen low

Officials believe low sales are due to stigma

Gundersen Sales of Narcan Low

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - It has been one year since Gundersen Health System began offering an overdose-reversal medication in some of their pharmacies.

Gundersen’s program originally planned for 300 prescriptions of Narcan, or Naloxone
However, the program fell well short of expectations.

Officials said it points to the stigma surround drug use in the community.

Joe Chilsen co-chairs the Heroin and Other Illicit Drug Task Force. He said people are worried about purchasing Narcan in public.

"Is somebody looking over my shoulder, is somebody going to see me walking out with this? Is someone going to say I'm a heroin addict because I have this?" Chilsen said.

His co-chair, Dr. Christopher Eberlein, is an emergency room physician at Gundersen.

He said Narcan can help reverse overdoses that have nothing to do with illegal drug use, including the elderly who are prescribed a mix of painkillers and narcotics.  

"They get confused on the ones they've taken. They double or triple take the narcotic in a day, and they end up coming sedated. The family thinks they've had a stroke,” Eberlein said.

He thinks doctors should take a different approach to the drug.

"(We are encouraging) Primary providers and people who are prescribing long-term opiates to consider a Narcan prescription with it,” Eberlein said. “That way you have the antidote at home."

Eberlein said removing the stigma associated with Narcan is the key to avoiding deaths.

"The goal is to keep people alive enough to get into treatment, and hopefully to avoid a tragic overdose for someone; an elderly person confusing their medications or a child or teenager getting inside that medicine cabinet and being found unresponsive at home,” Eberlein said.

"A lot of people did not die because of Narcan,” Chilsen said.

The cost of one dose of Narcan is $80, but officials said most insurance companies cover the cost.

Officials said the reason they encourage people to buy Narcan is to avoid the cost of an emergency room or even hospital stay.

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