Mass AG Strikes Deal With Big Pharma, Makes Narcan More Affordable

By Victoria Kim 09/09/15

Maura Healey has helped give hope by making a life-saving drug more affordable.

Narcan Kit
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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was able to strike a deal with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures the life-saving overdose antidote Narcan, making the drug more affordable to Massachusetts cities and towns.

Healey announced the deal in late August. Amphastar will pay the state $325,000, the equivalent of nearly 10,000 units of naloxone, which will go into the state’s new Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Trust Fund.

“We know this drug is important. We know it saves lives by reversing overdoses in an instant and bringing those people back from the brink of death,” Healey said in a news conference, speaking to officials in public health, law enforcement, and first responders.

The money will offset the rising cost of the life-saving drug, making it more affordable to Massachusetts communities. The price of the drug has doubled in the past year, with reports of first responders paying as much as $65 for one dose, Boston’s WBUR reports.

Healey’s office sent a letter to Amphastar in February regarding the affordability of Narcan, and ways the company might be able to offer the drug at a more affordable price.

“Since June of 2014, reports indicate that the cost of the medication has increased 111%, from $19.56 to $41.43 for a 2 milliliter dose,” wrote First Assistant Attorney General Chris Barry-Smith. “These increases have strained access to this life-saving medication at exactly the moment when it is most needed. My office has heard regularly from local law enforcement and public health workers worried about their ability to maintain supplies.”

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, an estimated 1,256 Massachusetts residents died from opioid overdoses in 2014, a sharp rise from previous years. Emergency workers in Massachusetts administered about 11,000 doses of Narcan last year, according to Healey.

Massachusetts municipalities will be able to purchase Narcan directly from the Department of Public Health, which will purchase the drug in bulk from Amphastar at wholesale price of roughly $33 per dose.

Currently, there are just two manufacturers of naloxone in the U.S., Amphastar and Hospira. Amphastar is the only one to produce the drug in the dosage that's used as a nasal spray, a more user-friendly alternative to injecting it.

Attorneys general in New York, New Jersey, and Ohio were also able to make deals with Amphastar to cut and cap the price of Narcan for state agencies, municipalities, and drug treatment centers. But Healey says the state’s bulk purchasing arrangement with the company is a better deal.

Healey, who took office in January, has made the state’s opioid problem a priority. Earlier this year, she announced that she is actively considering legal action against Big Pharma, saying she “won’t hesitate to take action against” the pharmaceutical companies that are engaged in “unfair or deceptive marketing practices.”

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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