Thursday, February 2, 2017

Massive Price Hike for Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Antidote by Shefali Luthra





“Suddenly in demand, naloxone injector goes from $690 to $4,500.

“First came Martin Shkreli, the brash young pharmaceutical entrepreneur who raised the price for an AIDS treatment by 5,000 percent. Then, Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, who oversaw the price hike for its signature Epi-Pen to more than $600 for a twin-pack, though its active ingredient costs pennies by comparison.

“Now a small Virginia company called Kaleo is joining their ranks. It makes an injector device that is suddenly in demand because of the nation’s epidemic use of opioids, a class of drugs that includes heavy painkillers and heroin.

“Called Evzio, it is used to deliver naloxone, a life-saving antidote to overdoses of opioids. More than 33,000 people are believed to have died from such overdoses in 2015. And as demand for Kaleo’s product has grown, the privately held firm has raised its twin-pack price to $4,500, from $690 in 2014.

“Founded by twin brothers Eric and Evan Edwards, 36, the company first sought to develop an Epi-Pen competitor, thanks to their own food allergies. Now, they’ve taken that model and marketed it for a major public health crisis. It’s another auto-injector that delivers an inexpensive medicine.

“One difference, though, is that Evzio talks users through the process as they inject naloxone. The company says the talking device is worth the price because it can guide anyone to jab an overdose victim correctly, leave the needle in for the right amount of time and potentially save his or her life.

“According to Food and Drug Administration estimates, the Kaleo product, which won federal approval in 2014, accounted for nearly 20 percent of the naloxone dispensed through retail outlets between 2015 and 2016, and for nearly half of all naloxone products prescribed to patients between ages 40 and 64—the group that comprises the bulk of naloxone users.

“And the cost of generic, injectable naloxone—which has been on the market since 1971—has been climbing. A 10-mililiter vial sold by one of the dominant vendors costs close to $150, more than double its price from even a few years ago, and far beyond the production costs of the naloxone chemical, researchers say. The other common injectable, which comes in a smaller but more potent dose, costs closer to $40, still about double its 2009 cost.

“Still, experts say the device’s price surge is way out of step with production costs, and a needless drain on health-care resources. ‘There’s absolutely nothing that warrants them charging what they’re charging,’ said Leo Beletsky, an associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston…” 

For the complete story, click here.

The story was originally published by Kaiser Health News on January 30, 2016. Read the original story here.



 

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