The Surging Price of the Overdose Reversal Drug, Naloxone
As the opioid epidemic continues and the number of overdose deaths climbs, naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug also known by the brand name Narcan, has become even more important. While it’s not a treatment for opioid addiction, naloxone has the ability to bring individuals experiencing an overdose back from the brink of death. Because of its life-saving abilities, public health leaders agree it is essential that naloxone remain widely accessible to medical centers, first responders and private citizens.
In fact, over 40 states have passed laws that increase access to naloxone and many first responders around the country, such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics, now carry the drug while on duty.
Yet, as the need for naloxone grows, the price continues to increase as well.
Although the exact reasons for the price increases are unclear, they are nothing less than devastating. In just two years, the price of Evzio, an auto-inject version of naloxone designed to be used by people without medical training, has soared from $575 to $3,750 per two-dose package. The cost of generic versions of the drug have increased as well, in one case rising from under two dollars to over thirty for a single dose. This 1,500 percent price increase may prohibit both individuals and communities from keeping the medication on-hand in anticipation of an emergency. In many communities, supplies of the medication are already running out.
In the face of this crisis, the federal government has taken some steps to help address the rising cost of naloxone and ensure it remains accessible to the communities that need it. These efforts include:
- A proposal to allow the import of generic versions of the drug
- Streamlining the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process for new formulations
- Additional grants designated to expand training, drug purchasing and access among states
Most experts agree that naloxone is an essential tool for addressing the opioid crisis and saving lives, but the rising cost of naloxone remains a barrier to achieving this goal. It’s unclear if the federal government’s current actions will be enough, but it is clear that without access and affordability we will continue to see a tragic and senseless increase in the number of preventable opioid overdose deaths.
TIFFANY JOHN, L.M.S.W.
Tiffany John is a research associate at Center on Addiction