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Big Pharma Jacks up the Price of Naloxone…Again

Considered a “miracle-drug” by many, naloxone is a fast-acting drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. In recent years, police departments and first responders have found naloxone critical in preventing opiate-related deaths. In short, naloxone saves lives, and policy-makers are increasingly expanding its use through new legislation.

However, the price of saving lives is becoming almost unmanageably expensive, thanks to the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Big Pharma Strikes Again

In 2008, injectable naloxone was officially recognized as a critical tool for saving lives. That same year, Hospira, the pharmaceutical manufacturer, secured a monopoly on the drug’s production. They jacked up the prices by 1,100 percent, then claimed its monopoly was unintentional.

Unfortunately, the price-gouging tactics didn’t stop there.

Big pharma took a gamble and decided to continue with its moneymaking scheme. Instead of instituting some sort of price-cap, they are charging more for what was once very affordable drug. In fact, things have gotten so out of control that the price tag is now threatening some state’s ability to access naloxone.

Low-Cost, High Inflation

Like most drugs, naloxone costs pennies on the dollar to manufacture, however it’s the timing of these price hikes that has lawmakers reacting.

Big pharma’s staggering profits have lead many to accuse the industry of collusion, overpricing and outright profiteering.In 2014, total pharmaceutical profits topped $1 trillion dollars worldwide. In fact, the industry enjoys a higher profit margin than banks, oil, media and car makers. Big pharma’s staggering profits have lead many to accuse the industry of collusion, overpricing and outright profiteering.

Considering the industry’s record, heroin and opiate overdoses have tripled since 2010 as an almost direct result of the widespread manufacturing of opioid painkillers. Now that nearly half of U.S. states are expanding wider access to naloxone as a public safety measure to battle this problem, the price of the drug is rising in direct correlation with its regulatory proliferation – and for asinine profits.

Calling Out Amphastar: Rightfully so, several state and public health officials are now demanding pricing answers from big pharma. Specifically, they’re looking at Amphastar, the only pharmaceutical company currently manufacturing intranasal naloxone kits.

Vermont Pushes Back

Recently, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont sent a letter in response to an unabashed 62 percent naloxone price spike in Vermont, which conveniently coincided with new legislature that dramatically expanded the use of naloxone by law enforcement and first responders.

The letter reads, “We are reducing the stigma associated with addiction, expanding treatment, and saving lives. The soaring cost of naloxone threatens to thwart our progress.”

This letter by Gov. Shumlin, and the level of political involvement, builds on recent efforts by U.S Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In March, the politicians also sent a letter to Amphastar regarding the questionable practice of timing price hikes with new legislature expanding naloxone use.

In a letter written to Amphastar, the politicians cite Chuck Wexler, the Executive Director of the Police Executive Forum, who states, “It’s not an incremental change…there’s clearly something going on.”

Seemingly, this “something” is rather blatant profiteering while undermining life-saving public policies.

Additional Reading: 9 Common Questions About a Drug That Saves Lives