Opioid overdose death rates continue to rise across the country, fueled by the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. In recent months lawmakers and health agencies have announced a number of plans to combat the opioid crisis in America. While addiction is the root of the problem and greater access to drug treatment is the ultimate goal, there are a number of additional measures that can be taken to save lives. Expanding access to the life saving drug naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, has become a priority in both urban and rural areas. Unfortunately, as demand for naloxone continues to rise, so does the price, NPR reports.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone, commonly sold under the brand name Narcan ®, is a μ-opioid receptor (MOR) competitive antagonist. It can be administered by injection or aerosol through the nose, and it blocks opioid receptors causing rapid onset of withdrawal symptoms. If someone is experiencing an overdose, naloxone can quickly reverse the symptoms, effectively reversing an overdose.
The drug is responsible for saving thousands of lives that would have otherwise been lost to an overdose. Over the past few years, first responders have begun carrying naloxone nasal kits in areas that have been hit hard by the prescription drug epidemic. In some states, the loved ones of addicts can acquire naloxone without a prescription.
Exploiting the Need
Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer of naloxone, has dramatically increased the price of the life saving medicine over the last year, according to the article. In February, the Baltimore City Health Department was paying about $20 for a dose of naloxone, by July the price had nearly doubled to almost $40.
“When drug companies increase their prices and charge exorbitant rates, they decrease the access to the drug,” said U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland. “There’s something awfully wrong with that picture.”
Between 1996 and 2014, almost 27,000 lives were saved by naloxone, according to a government study. If drug companies continue to raise the price of the drug, fewer people will have access to the drug – nothing good can come from price gouging.
If you are or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, please contact Design for Change to begin the journey of recovery.