The price of naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, has skyrocketed in the past few years, according to an analysis by Truven Health Analytics, a research and data firm owned by IBM Corp.
The data show that the price of naloxone has increased among three manufacturers of the drug: Kaleo Pharma, Amphastar and Hospira, which is now owned by Pfizer.
Kaleo increased the price of one injection from $287 in July 2014 to $375 in November 2015. For Amphastar, the price more than doubled in a six-year time period from $16.95 for a syringe dose in 2008 to $33 for one dose in 2014. Hospira increased the price of one vial from $5.89 in 2010 to $15.83 in 2014.
In a prepared statement, Kaleo VP of Corporate Affairs Mark Herzog said “we take seriously our commitment to help patients have access to our medicines.” In Feburary 2016, the company expanded patient access to its naloxone Evzio drug by allowing insured customers with a prescription to receive the drug for “an out-of-pocket cost, in most cases, of $0.”
Requests for comment from Amphastar and Hospira were not successful.
The spike largely reflects the cost of drugs industrywide, said Daniel Raymond, policy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition.
But Raymond added there are some circumstances that make naloxone particularly unique. The least expensive form of the drug is the injectable version but it's only manufactured by four drug companies: Mylan, Amphastar, Kaleo and Pfizer.
The lack of competition is likely causing prices to rise, Raymond said. However, more manufacturers may begin to produce naloxone as federal and congressional officials credit the drug as helping address the nation's opioid epidemic, he added.
In March 2015, HHS officials called on states to increase their purchase and use of naloxone, which restores breathing for a person who has overdosed on heroin or painkillers.
Last month, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wrote to pharmaceutical companies asking why the cost of the drug was rising as reports showed emergency responders and public health departments found using the drug was cost prohibitive.
“If I was a pharmaceutical company, I would say we're getting strong signals that the federal government is really trying to build out access to naloxone so this is going to be meaningful and sustainable,” Raymond said.
The demand for the drug has also increased. A July 2014 survey from the Harm Reduction Coalition found that 136 organizations provide naloxone kits, up from 48 organizations surveyed in 2010.