Naloxone Price Hikes Affecting Efforts to Combat Opioid-Related Deaths?

HealthDay News — Escalating prices of the drug naloxone may threaten efforts to reduce opioid-related deaths across America, according to a perspective piece published in the December 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.1

The research team from Yale University and the Mayo Clinic called attention to the increasing prices, noting that:1. Hospira (a Pfizer company) charges $142 for a 10-pack of naloxone — up 129% since 2012; 2. Amphastar’s 1 mg version of naloxone is used off-label as a nasal spray. It is priced around $40 — a 95% increase since September 2014; and 3. newer, easier-to-use formulations are even more expensive — a 2-dose package of Evzio (naloxone) costs $4,500, an increase of more than 500% over 2 years.

Naloxone is part of a wave of precipitous price hikes affecting old and new medicines. These drugs include Mylan’s EpiPen injectors for life-threatening allergic reactions; Turing Pharmaceuticals’ Sovaldi for hepatitis C; and insulin for diabetes made by Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi US.

Several US agencies have recommended boosting access to naloxone to combat prescription opioid-related deaths, the study authors noted. The authors argued that the government should do more to ensure the drug is affordable. Possible strategies include: encouraging generic competition; buying in bulk; and importing generics from international manufacturers. The government could also invoke a federal law that allows it to contract with a manufacturer to produce less-costly versions, the study authors suggested. It is also possible that the US Food and Drug Administration could switch naloxone to over-the-counter status, the researchers said.

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  1. Gupta R, Nilay, Shah ND, Ross JS. The Rising Price of Naloxone — Risks to Efforts to Stem Overdose Deaths. NEJM. DOI:+10.1056/NEJMp1609578.