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Friday, June 2, 2017

Opioid Epidemic: Naloxone Pricing Revisited

naloxone
Most Americans have heard of the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, often sold under the brand names Narcan, Hospira, Amphastar and Evzio. The latter of which comes in auto injector form, to be used with little training by addicts and their family members in the case of an emergency. While these overdose antidotes don’t always work, especially if other drugs or more powerful opioids like fentanyl are involved; they have been proven to be extremely effective in most cases, saving thousands of lives each year.

At the end of last year, we discussed how the companies who make naloxone products have been dramatically raising their prices. Price gouging is status quo for most drug companies whose product is essentially one of a kind. However, unlike a lot of drugs that carry a high price tag, drugs like Evzio can be the difference between life and death. If a patient or a police department can’t afford to resupply, untold numbers of people may perish as a result.

Around the country, both lawmakers and health experts were up in arms about what was happening in the industry. How could a company ethically justify such egregious price hikes, with full knowledge that people may die as a result? For example, in January 2016 the makers of Evzio, Kaléo, charged $937.50 for two injectors, which by most people's standards is unreasonable. In April of the same year, Kaleo raised the price of their life saving product to $4,687.50.

 

The Reasons Offered


The explanation given by Kaléo was that the price increase was meant to offset the costs associated with a new patient-assistance program, The New York Times reports. This patient-assistance program means to lower the out-of-pocket costs for patients unable to afford Evzio. Kaléo eats the bill on all out-of-pocket costs for patients with private insurance, and for anyone making less than $100,000 per year—the drug is free.

The counter to Kaléo’s reasoning is that such programs end up increasing the costs of the drug, placing a huge burden on the American health care system, according to the article. Insurance companies being forced to pay for the majority of the bill has a rippling effect, potentially resulting in the raising of everyone’s insurance premiums.

 

No Easy Solutions


Evzio is ideal because people can use the auto-injector without much instruction. But there are other naloxone delivery systems that are much less expensive. And thosee are not being utilized as much as they should be. But, at the end of the day, both drug makers and insurance companies are corporations concerned with profit and cutting costs. The best solution, perhaps, would be for the Federal government to step in, mandate some form of fixed pricing, or reasonable cost standard. After which, buy up the bulk of the drug and provided it to states to hand out for free.

One could even argue that the opioid painkiller makers should provide the drug for free to every patient taking their medications. Such companies helped create the epidemic, they should have a hand in mitigating the risk of overdosing on their medications.

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