Spike in Price of Heroin Overdose Antidote Raises Concerns and Calls for Action

A surge in the price of naloxone, the medicine that reverses an opioid overdose, is alarming Baltimore City Officials and is threatening their ability to reach to more people with the life saving drug. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana S. Wen says a leading manufacturer of naloxone has since spring raised the 10-dose cost from $97 to $370, with the most recent hike coming last week.

In a letter this week to a congressional committee, Wen said the increase by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals has contributed to a near-doubling in the overall cost of delivering more than 1,000 doses annually of naloxone, which she calls a “miracle drug” for preventing overdose deaths.

“This means we can only save half the lives of patients we were able to before,” Wen told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, the ranking Democrat on the panel, responded Tuesday by urging Gov. Larry Hogan to take a hard line on price negotiations with Amphastar on behalf of the city and other jurisdictions.

Cummings told the Republican governor that he has been investigating the company’s pricing and has found that public health officials are facing “sticker shock” over recent increases.

“Maryland should not let Amphastar jeopardize the positive steps the state has already taken by overcharging for this critical drug,” Cummings wrote. “I encourage you to take the same aggressive action as other states to negotiate an agreement with this company and then use these savings to make naloxone more available.”

A spokeswoman for Hogan said the governor will approach the manufacturer for possible relief.

On a related note Baltimore City is seeing an increase in the rate of fentanyl overdoses, which account for a quarter of overdose deaths in 2014. The Baltimore City Health Department has ramped up its public outreach campaign to spread awareness about the dangers of fentanyl. As reported in The Baltimore Business Journal:

Courtesy: Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore Business Journal

The health department’s latest public service announcement shows just how dire the city’s heroin and opioid overdose problem has gotten and how desperate city health officials are to address the problem.

Overdose-related deaths associated with fentanyl, a potent painkiller used in medical treatment, are up 178 percent the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same quarter last year. A total of 39 people died of fentanyl-laced heroin overdoses between January and March, compared to 14 in the same quarter last year.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun and in The Baltimore Business Journal.