Opioid-Related Deaths May Increase As Naloxone Prices Soar

Investigators identify some strategies for ensuring the drug's availability.
Investigators identify some strategies for ensuring the drug's availability.

HealthDay News -- According to a perspective piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine, escalating prices of naloxone may threaten efforts to reduce opioid-related deaths across America.

The research team from Yale University and the Mayo Clinic called attention to the increasing prices, noting that: Hospira, a Pfizer company, charges $142 for a 10-pack of naloxone -- 129% higher since 2012; Amphastar's 1 mg version of naloxone is used off-label as a nasal spray, which is priced around $40 -- a 95% increase since September 2014; and newer, easier-to-use formulations are even more expensive -- a 2-dose package of Evzio, or naloxone, costs $4500 -- 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's also possible that the US Food and Drug Administration could switch naloxone to over-the-counter status, the researchers said.

Reference

Gupta R, Shah ND, and Ross JS. "The Rising Price Of Naloxone — Risks To Efforts To Stem Overdose Deaths". New England Journal of Medicine. 2016. 375(23): 2213-2215. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1609578

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