NARCAN requests on the rise in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The amount of requests for over-the-counter NARCAN has increased fourfold over the last year in La Crosse. Pharmacists are also seeing prescriptions for the overdose reversal drug increase exponentially. 

Gundersen Health System reviews the data from its pharmacy year after year. Health care providers said the numbers show a positive sign for the ongoing opioid epidemic-- that more people are aware of the potential dangers of these drugs. 

Pharmacists at Gundersen Health System used to sell NARCAN over the counter about four or five times throughout out the entire year. But new numbers show several doses are now being sold each month.

"Which is promising from the standpoint that people are more accepting of having NARCAN around. They realize you can overdose on these medications," said Dr. Chris Eberlein, emergency medicine doctor for Gundersen Health System. 

Dr. Eberlein said the reason why there are only a few over-the-counter purchases may be related to costs. 

"At $80 a dose, people pause on a medication like that. When you can get it covered by your insurance, you just have to pay a copay," Eberlein said. 

Prescriptions for NARCAN are also on the rise. Pharmacist Jim Bomkamp said the increase in both prescriptions and over the counter doses may be because of awareness.

"I think in general, society, caregivers, family members, people of that nature are more aware of the opioid epidemic because it is growing," Bomkamp said.  

The medical system has an initiative to increase conversations about opioids. These numbers may be a sign those conversations are making a difference. 

"Our providers are doing a better job educating the patients who may be candidates for NARCAN and their family members," Bomkamp said.  

And more people are starting to realize you can inadvertently overdose on opioids even when prescribed by a doctor. 

"It's not just the heroin addicts we're trying to protect with this medication. We're looking to try to protect everyone that has a narcotic prescription," Eberlein said.  

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