Senior congressman joins chorus calling for heroin antidote price cut
- In 2013, there were 44,000 deaths from drug overdoses, mainly opioids and heroin; however, the cost of nalaxone, the antidote for heroin overdose, has been rapidly rising in price and outpacing inflation.
- Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Government and Oversight Committee, wrote to Governor Larry Hogan (R) to request that he cut a deal with Amphastar, which manufactures nalaxone.
- Other lawmakers are also protesting the high cost of nalaxone, with a notable win by the NY Attorney General, who procured a $6-per-pill rebate from Amphastar in March 2015.
This is an ongoing saga in which the price of a much-needed, heroin-overdose antidote has been growing out of reach for many municipal health workers and police departments. In fact, price increases are so startling (as much as 50% in less than a year) that Congress has mounted a bipartisan effort to address the issue. Towards that end, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), have sent a letter to Amphastar to inquire about pricing, in March. And now the goal is to create a federal policy, based on law that was proposed in May, which would require generic manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicaid when their prices outpace inflation.
The stakes are high, as the rate of opioid abuse, addiction and overdose show no signs of decreasing. Therefore, while many lawmakers will attempt to negotiate with Amphastar on state-by-state basis, a larger unified effort driven by Congress will undoubtedly be more effective—assuming it works.