Price Of Naloxone Doubles Again

By McCarton Ackerman 09/17/15

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals has cornered the market on the life-saving antidote and is now cashing in.

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Despite, or perhaps because of the continued demand for naloxone, manufacturers of the opioid overdose antidote are continuing to raise prices, making the drug more inaccessible for many of those who desperately need it.

An NPR report found that Baltimore’s City Health Department was paying $20 per dose in February, but that price doubled in July. The price for a dose of naloxone had previously doubled last year. The manufacturers of naloxone, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, are a monopoly because they’re the only manufacturer in the United States that makes the dosage used for intranasal administration. They blamed rising manufacturing costs with the spike in prices, but plenty are simply not buying the excuse.

“When drug companies increase their prices and charge exorbitant rates, they decrease the access to the drug,” said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. “There’s something awfully wrong with this picture.”

Last February, Amphastar agreed to offer a $6 rebate per dose to agencies in New York state, but have not offered this to any other state. The increased costs and decreased accessibility are even more disturbing because the World Health Organization reported that increasing the availability of naloxone could prevent more than 20,000 deaths in the United States annually. More than one-third of all overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2013 were due to prescription opioids.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stepped up by announcing an expanded grants program for states to purchase naloxone. They also confirmed that they will provide additional funds to distribute the antidote to first responders and families who need it most.

“We know that naloxone is saving lives,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The HHS plan to increase naloxone’s use will go a long way toward reducing overdose deaths, which have devastated so many families and communities across the country.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.