Price of Lifesaving Overdose Antidote Doubles

By Victoria Kim 03/27/15

Manufacturers are claiming higher production costs as the reason for the increase, but some are not buying it.

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The price of the overdose antidote naloxone has doubled in the past year, which has some people worried that this will decrease access to the lifesaving drug.

Police in several states are equipped with naloxone, which is often sold under the brand name Narcan, in response to a growing number of overdoses. A handful of states now even allow pharmacies to sell it without a prescription.

Before the price increase late last year, 400 naloxone kits cost a little under $21,000, at $51.50 per kit. Now, that amount would buy only 200 kits, at nearly $100 per kit.

This is especially concerning not only for individuals, but for first responders across the country who are funded by limited municipal budgets.

“It’s not an incremental increase. There’s clearly something going on,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Currently, there is just one company that sells the popular nasal spray version of naloxone, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The injectable form of naloxone is cheaper, but is less user friendly.

Some blame a lack of competition for the price increase, and hope that the introduction of a new naloxone spray, currently being developed by the company AntiOp, will increase competition and drive prices down.

According to Amphastar’s president, Jason Shandell, the price increase of its naloxone spray is due to “steadily increasing” manufacturing costs over recent years.

Some are not buying it. “We’ve had a pretty steady price for several years now. Then these big government programs come in and now all of a sudden we’re seeing a big price spike,” said Matt Curtis, policy director of VOCAL-New York, an advocacy group. “The timing is pretty noticeable.”

Around the same time the price hike occurred late last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines to increase access to naloxone. They recommended that countries give individuals more access to the drug, saying it could potentially save more than 20,000 lives per year in the U.S. alone.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr