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Friday, December 9, 2016

Reversing Overdose Has A Heavy Price

naloxone
In a perfect world, opioid addicts would have free-access to the lifesaving drug naloxone. The drug can reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, and one could argue that doctors should co-prescribe naloxone when they write an opioid prescription and community outreach programs should handout naloxone free to heroin addicts who cannot afford to buy it from a pharmacy. Sadly, that is not the world we live in, but some lawmakers in the United States have been fighting to expand access to the miracle drug, which has proved difficult because of price.

If one were looking to buy naloxone, they can expect to pay upwards of $150 for two doses. Certainly, you cannot put a price tag on life, but if you can’t afford the naloxone kit you may lose yours. Lawmakers have received a lot of pressure from addiction experts to reign in the ever-increasing price of the lifesaving drug. This week, experts called on the government to act in The New England Journal of Medicine, according to HealthDay. The experts write:

“Naloxone’s price increase is part of an overall trend of increasing prescription-drug prices for both new brand-name drugs and old, off-patent generics. Public frustration with rising drug prices has led to a number of recent policy proposals, including Vermont’s new legislation requiring companies to justify price increases, California’s attempt to constrain drug payments, and the recently proposed and bipartisan-supported Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act. None of the federal or state initiatives expanding naloxone’s availability, however, address the drug’s rising cost.” 

Part of the issue is that there are limited options. An increase in demand for the drug has the expected effect of drug makers seeing an opportunity to increase profit, regardless of the deadly consequence of people being unable to afford the drug. Here are the numbers:
  • Hospira (a Pfizer Inc. company) charges $142 for a 10-pack of naloxone —a 129 percent increase since 2012.
  • Amphastar's 1 milligram version of naloxone costs around $40—a 95 percent increase since September 2014.
  • A two-dose package of Evzio (naloxone) costs $4,500, a more than 500 percent increase over two years.
“The challenge is as the price goes up for naloxone, it becomes less accessible for patients,” said study lead author, Ravi Gupta, a fourth-year Yale medical student. "Taking action now is essential to ensuring that this lifesaving drug is available to patients and communities."

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