Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is accusing a pharmaceutical company of “taking advantage of the citizens of Maryland” by overcharging for a drug used to treat heroin overdoses. There has been growing bipartisan concern in Congress about the rising number of deaths from heroin and other opioid overdoses in the U.S., and the drug in question, Naloxone, is seen as a key way to fight back.
Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, on Tuesday wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) urging him to reach a deal with the company to reduce the cost of the drug, as some other states have done.
“I believe the State of Maryland is being overcharged for a critical drug called naloxone that is used by first responders and medical personnel to reverse the life-threatening effects of heroin and other opioid overdoses, and I urge you to make sure that the company charging these prices is not allowed to continue taking advantage of the citizens of Maryland,” Cummings wrote.
“Governors and Attorneys General in other states, including New York, have taken aggressive action to reduce the amounts paid to this company, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, and I encourage you to do the same,” he added.
In February, the New York Attorney General announced an agreement with Amphastar to reduce by almost 20 percent the cost of the drug to law enforcement and public health officials in the state.
Amphastar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cummings’ letter.
Lawmakers have been calling attention to the 44,000 deaths from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That figure is more than the number of deaths from firearms or car crashes.
Cummings, along with presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has also been calling attention to high prices for other drugs. The pair introduced a bill in May to require generic drug manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicaid when their drug prices rise faster than inflation.
Generic drugs have long been viewed as cheaper alternatives to brand-name drugs, but prices even for generics have been rising recently.
The Hill/July 7, 2015
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