Costs of Opioid Antidote Rise Alongside Deaths

As the nation remains in the grips of an opioid crisis causing tragic spikes in overdose deaths communities are seeing the costs of life saving medications that counter overdoses skyrocket.

Manufacturers of the medications, some of which have been on the market for decades, have significantly increased the costs for their products in a manner that may strain public health resources and can limit access to those who need it most.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Called Evzio, it is used to deliver naloxone, a life-saving antidote to overdoses of opioids. More than 33,000 people are believed to have died from such overdoses in 2015, and deaths soared at a record pace in 2016, including all over the Philadelphia area.

And as demand for Kaleo’s product has grown, the privately held firm has raised its twin-pack price to $4,500, from $690 in 2014.

And the cost of generic, injectable naloxone — which has been on the market since 1971 — has been climbing. A 10-mililiter vial sold by one of the dominant vendors costs close to $150, more than double its price from even a few years ago, and far beyond the production costs of the naloxone chemical, researchers say. The other common injectable, which comes in a smaller but more potent dose, costs closer to $40, still about double its 2009 cost.

Still, experts say the device’s price surge is way out of step with production costs, and a needless drain on health-care resources.

The opioid crisis has led more experts to call for expanded access to naloxone — for people navigating addiction and for those around them. The idea is that if someone nearby could overdose, dispensing the drug should be as easy as pulling the fire alarm.

Federal and state governments have spent millions of dollars equipping police officers and other first responders with naloxone. In communities particularly hard-hit by drug overdoses, places such as schools, libraries and coffee shops are keeping the antidote on hand. Physicians are prescribing it to patients who are taking prescription painkillers in an effort to make sure they — and their families and friends — are prepared.

The Evzio could be ideal, especially when medical professionals are not nearby, noted Traci Green, an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine. But the price limits access.

Read the full article in The Philadelphia Inquirer for more information.