The prices for Naloxone, a life-saving medication, have skyrocketed over the past few years. Also known as Narcan, the drug is known as a reversal drug to save people who are overdosing on opioids. Kaleo, who manufactures the auto-injector version of the medication, Evzio, has increased 680 percent to the price of $4,500 from the original price of $690. Naloxone has been on the market since 1971.
The drug blocks the effects of opioids and has saved many lives from opioid overdose. It comes in two forms, intramuscular injection and as a nasal spray. Both work within five minutes. Naloxone works from a half hour to an hour, enough time for first responders to arrive to begin life-saving techniques on someone overdosing and while multiple doses of the medication may be required, many agree that the drug is saving lives. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses, according to Scientific American.
It has not escaped the attention of those in Congress. Democratic Senator, Amy Klobuchar requested more information from Kaleo, the company that also makes Auvi-Q, an emergency epinephrine device that competes with Epi-Pen. The price for Auvi-Q has also skyrocketed as well. In a statement to Business Insider, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Mark Herzog said that when determining the list price for products, Kaleo always considers the needs of patients first and then discusses the issue with multiple healthcare system stakeholders. He went on to say that after having those discussions, they set the list price at $4,500, to ensure most patients could obtain the product with a $0 out-of-pocket cost.
Many, however, are not pleased with the company’s decision. Klobuchar said that she noted the subsidies, she believes the company is not addressing the “underlying problem of rising prescription drug costs.” This, however, is not the first time the medication’s prices were high. Other manufacturers have list prices lower that Kaleo’s list price. Evzio, according to IMS Health, makes up a third of prescriptions in 2016.
This is not the first time a pharmaceutical company has drastically raised their prices. Martin Shkreli increased prices for AIDS treatment by 5,000 percent. The CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, also raised prices for Epi-Pen. The difference with Evzio is that the company “talks users through the process as they inject naloxone” making the price hike worthwhile. Leo Beletsky, an associate professor of law and health sciences at Northwestern University in Boston said there’s absolutely nothing that warrants these prices.
By Cheryl Werber