Heroin Overdose Antidote Cost Skyrockets In Midst Of Epidemic
If you’ve been keeping up with the nation’s opioid overdose epidemic, you’ve probably heard about naloxone, an anti-overdose drug that reverses the effects of life-threatening central nervous system depression caused by prescription opioids or heroin.
Less known is an injector device that delivers naloxone. It’s called Evzio, and it’s manufactured by the small Virginia company Kaleo. In the last few years, the number of overdoses related to opioids has skyrocketed, as a result, so has the cost of Evzio – increasing in price from less than $700 in 2014 to $4,500 now.
But does the increase in demand warrant such a steep increase in price? Kaleo thinks so. Evzio does stand out among others for at least one reason – the product talks users through the injection process. According to the company, the device is worth the price because it has the capability to guide anyone through the process of proper injection, therefore increasing the chances of saving the victim’s life.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, Evzio accounted for almost 20% of the naloxone dispensed through retailers between 2015-2016, and almost half of all naloxone prescriptions given to patients aged 40-64.
In addition, the price of generic injectable naloxone has also been rising.
For example, a 10 ml vial of the heroin overdose antidote sold by one of the major vendors costs nearly $150 now – double the price of just a few years ago.
Experts state that the Evzio device’s price hike is far of line with production costs.
According to Leo Beletsky, associate professor of law and health services at Northeastern University in Boston:
“There’s absolutely nothing that warrants them charging what they’re charging.”
Indeed, the opioid overdose crisis has created the need for expanded access to naloxone – not to just first responders and hospitals, but to people suffering from addiction and those around them. And the availability of a heroin overdose antidote that essentially guides non-medical professionals through the process seems ideal – the problem is, a lot of people can’t afford it.
However, Kaleo is fighting the price backlash and has been giving away the device for free to cities, first responders, and drug treatment programs. In addition, Kaleo has been offering coupons to patients with private insurance to offset co-pays.
Mark Herzog, Kaleo’s vice president of corporate affairs, said in an email that the list price is “not a true gauge,” because insurance companies can often negotiate discounts. Also, according to Herzog, more patients have gotten Evzio prescriptions filled since the price increase – so the cost doesn’t appear to be a barrier.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology