Overdose Antidote Narcan Prices Soar
It’s no secret that over the last year prescription drug prices in the United States have been skyrocketing. Because of government regulations, drug manufacturers are able to charge monopolistic prices under the guise of research and development costs. These policies have affected many critical medications such as EpiPen, anti-malaria drug Daraprim, and most recently Narcan, the heroin overdose antidote.
With the opioid abuse epidemic continuing to spread, drug makers are capitalizing on the increased demand for this lifesaving drug. Additionally, more potent forms of heroin and other opioids such as fentanyl are requiring multiple doses to revive victims. In all of 2015, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue spent $55,000 on naloxone – the generic form of Narcan. This spending has increased upwards of 300% in 2016, costing the department $183,000 just in the first nine moths.
Available in several forms – injectable, nasal spray, and auto-injectors for those without medical training – it is the single-dose auto injector that has seen the most dramatic price hike. In 2014, a two-pack of these prefilled auto-injectors cost $690. Today this package costs $4,500. Once advertised to families and loved ones of addicts as a lifesaving heroin antidote, price hikes have made the drug almost inaccessible for those who need it the most. While increased prices in EpiPens cause uproar, people are not as quick to react to the situation at hand with Narcan. This is perhaps due to the stigma that still so heavily surrounds opioid addiction.
According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the following actions could help drive prices back down:
- Purchase naloxone supplies in bulk. This creates a “stable demand” that may encourage other companies to begin manufacturing.
- Invoke federal laws to negotiate contracts with manufacturers
- Allow importation of generic versions from international manufacturers.
Without regulatory and legislative changes, these drug companies can continue to raise prices with no end in sight. Lawmakers need to promote transparency in drug prices. New legislation in Vermont requires companies to justify their price increases, which enables a system of checks and balances to prevent companies from taking advantage of consumer demand.