Demi Lovato’s overdose sparked massive interest in Narcan, president says

The makers behind Narcan-- the emergency nasal spray used to revive pop singer Demi Lovato this summer after a reported drug overdose—are now launching a media campaign to urge more people to keep the potential life-saving product on hand.

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Adapt Pharma, the privately-held Ireland-based company that got FDA approval for the commercial use of nasal spray in 2015, said the highly publicized event of Lovato’s overdose gave them a big “bump in awareness.”

“When we will see a story like Demi’s, it kind of validates what we are doing is actually working and that we have to do a lot more because there’s a lot of people out there that need help,” Mike Kelly, president of Adapt’s U.S. operations, told FOX Business.

However, a few months later, Narcan found itself in the news again but the results weren’t as promising.

Reality star Bethenny Frankel’s ex-boyfriend Dennis Shield’s assistant used the spray during an apparent overdose but he did not survive.

Kelly said they get ‘frustrated” by those stories and it makes them work harder.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. And that number is expected to climb even more in 2018.

“We believe we are just at the beginning of trying to scratch the surface of getting information out there about what we can do, which is why we’re doing this campaign,” Kelly said. “We have to get enough naloxone (the narcotic blocker used in Narcan’s spray) out there to stop people from dying and secondly, we have to get people into treatment.”

The new pilot campaign includes a commercial launched this week in eight key market areas that are heavily affected by the opioid crisis. Kelly said the goal is to target family and friends of people who are currently battling their addiction. 

The CDC reports that witnesses could have intervened, potentially administering naloxone, in 44 percent of opioid overdose deaths.

In March, President Trump even introduced Kelly during an event in New Hampshire, touting that he wanted to put the drug in the hands of first responders all across the country to reverse overdoses.

Five months later, Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company, announced it is buying Adapt to beef up its portfolio but had “no plans to change” anything.

Kelly said the goal of the company now goes beyond just selling products and becoming profitable, which is one of the reasons it has maintained a 40 percent discount for state and local governments and non-profit organizations to buy Narcan.

“We announced several years ago, our free Narcan to schools program and then we further announced just last year that we are enhancing it to include more high schools and universities. What we are trying to do is launch an educational effort to explain to kids what opioids are and what they’re not,” he said.

Adapt said more than 80 percent of Narcan sales are from the U.S., which has been the hardest hit by the opioid crisis.