Sheriff's deputies in Hennepin County are among the law enforcement agencies that carry a drug to help quickly reverse the effects of heroin overdoses.
This is seen as an important tool, especially as the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the county continues to rise. But there's one problem right now. Some of the tools those deputies use to spray the naloxone (the name of the drug) into an overdose victim's nose don't work right.
They were recalled because they make the medicine come out like a stream �� rather than a misty plume, like it's supposed to. This could mean not enough of the overdose reversal drug gets into the person's system, so it might not work.
Twenty percent of the sheriff's office's overdose tools are affected.
“I expect 2016 will be a record-breaking year for overdose deaths in the county,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said in a news release Thursday. He noted through October 2016 there were 106 fatal overdoses from opioids – that's up 25 percent from the same period the year before.
"Due to this tragic increase, I consider this recall issue to be of the highest importance. We are dealing with an epidemic, and we need all the help we can get to save lives," Stanek added.
What happens now?
Stanek continues to call on Teleflex Medical, the company that makes the device, to replace the defective ones.
Teleflex sent two shipments meant to fix the problem, but they ended up being part of the recalled bunch, Stanek said.
"We are in the business of saving lives, and it is difficult to do that if we can't rely on equipment being sent to us," Stanek added, calling this "incredibly frustrating."
The sheriff's office did say it has enough working tools to be "operationally effective," but it isn't operating at 100 percent.
Stanek is now personally calling on Teleflex to "ensure a return to 100 percent functionality for first responders" who use the tool, the news release says. Reportsindicate that the devices are on back order, and Teleflex is releasing them as they become available.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office administered naloxone seven times in 2016, the release says. No one has died due to the defective devices, the Star Tribune reports.