The Vermont Attorney General has reached a settlement with the maker of a drug that reverses opiate overdoses.
The agreement will reduce the state's cost of purchasing naloxone (Narcan) by 20 percent.
But a pilot program that distributes the life-saving antidote sunsets in June 2016. Without action by the Legislature and Gov. Peter Shumlin, the state's naloxone distribution program will cease after the first six months of next year.
Naloxone is an opiate antagonist that prevents the respiratory and nervous systems from shutting down, which is how an opiate overdose becomes fatal. It's widely known as Narcan, the brand name of a naloxone nasal injector made by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals.
The agreement Attorney General Bill Sorrell's office reached with Amphastar will reduce the cost of each Narcan kit by $6 from $31 to $25, according to Assistant Attorney General Jill Abrams. Several other states have reached similar arrangements with Amphastar.
As of September the state had distributed nearly 7,000 Narcan kits through 10 pilot sites operated by partner organizations. The program started in 2013. Recipients of Nacan reported using the drug to reverse more than 400 overdoses, according to Health Department figures.
The program is only growing in importance as 2015 is on pace to be the deadliest year in Vermont's battle with opiates.
In the first nine months of this year, 55 people died from accidental opiate overdoses. In 2013, the most deadly in the previous four years, 58 people died of accidental opiate overdoses over the 12-month period, according to figures from the health department.
Shumlin took Amphastar to task in an editorial published last April for raising the price of the drug, but administration officials won't say if the governor's proposed budget includes funding to continue making Narcan available to drug users and their family and friends.
Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said Monday that the governor and his staff are still working on the upcoming year's budget, and details won't be made public until the governor's Jan. 21 budget address.
Coriell said only that the governor "has made confronting the opiate challenges faced by Vermont a priority and has put significant resources into that effort."
The Health Department is required to provide lawmakers with a report on the program next month. A final draft is being reviewed by Dr. Harry Chen, the department's commissioner, and the details aren't currently available. However, health department officials say the report will recommend the program be continued.
The state, which provides the kits but relies on partner organizations, mostly social service nonprofits to distribute the drug, had spent only $165,000 on the program as of Sept. 30.