Less than a week after a Gloucester man died of a suspected heroin overdose, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is asking the state and the federal government to invest in naloxone, the drug marketed under the name Narcan and one known as being able to temporarily reverse the effect of an opiate overdose.
The Massachusetts Democrat wrote to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, asking questions about what it would take to expand the use of naloxone and posed other questions revolving around opiate addiction.
In line with the death on Warner Street last week, other heroin overdoses were reported around the same time across the North Shore, as well as other parts of New England and the Northeast.
Markey’s Feb. 11 letter also marked the same day President Barack Obama’s administration called for first responders to carry naloxone or Narcan.
”Given the worrisome increase of opioid abuse and the terrible burden to communities of preventable deaths from overdose and the great successes demonstrated in Massachusetts, I am eager to see bystander and first-responder nasal naloxone programs expanded in Massachusetts and also across the nation,” Markey wrote.
While naloxone was not used in the Warner Street incident — the victim was unresponsive when police and paramedics arrived — Gloucester first responders do carry it with them. In one instance, Gloucester responders used it twice on the way to Addison Gilbert Hospital to revive a 21/2-year-old girl after the toddler was believed to have ingested part of a Suboxone pill in the home.
According to October 2013 figures, naloxone has reversed 2,300 overdoses in the state, Markey said.
He also asked Sebelius what programs and resources the DHHS has in place to fund expansions of naloxone to both emergency personnel and bystanders, how to further naloxone training, potential barriers to increasing naloxone accessibility and national statistics on the drug.