LANSING, Mich. — Prices for a life-saving drug that can effectively reverse an overdose are skyrocketing. Some analysis shows prices for variations of Narcan, or Nalaxone, have risen by as much as 17-fold in the past two years.
The nationwide trend is troubling some local lawmakers who've been actively pushing to expand the availability of the overdose antidote, not only to law enforcement agencies, but the general public. "The focus needs to be on saving lives, and if drug companies are arbitrarily increasing costs to make the bottom line that really is not putting the focus on people," said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who worked to outfit all first responders in the state with Narcan. Definitely there's concerns, it's staggering."
Schuitmaker is also working to pass legislation that would allow pharmacies to offer Narcan over the counter, without a prescription.
In an unprecedented national move announced in February, Walgreens said its pharmacies will offer the drug without prescription after a pharmacist consultation. By the end of the year, 39 states will have this— Michigan is not on the list.
At the federal level, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, launched a probe into Amphastar, the largest supplier of Narcan, accusing the company of profiting off of a crisis. "We can no longer allow drug companies to keep ripping off the taxpayers for life-saving medications," Cummings said.
Cummings said Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. jacked up prices for the antidote as demand has increased. Evidence-based public policy, he said, has been "undermined by corporate greed."
In May 2014, a 10-dose pack of the drug cost roughly $190, Cummings said. Today, it costs more than $400.
The White House has also announced it's working with state governments to leverage buying power to secure discounts. Schuitmaker says she remains hopeful Congress can lead the charge on investigating whether collusion or price fixing is at play. "This package of bills we've done in the past have really put Narcan in the hands of law enforcement and family members so that we can save lives," she told FOX 17. "It really would be a shame to see that hindered."
Despite efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, deaths from drug overdoses reached an all-time high in 2014, according to the most recent data made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from overdoses of prescription drugs and heroin continue to be the leading cause of unintentional death for Americans, rising 14 percent from 2013 to 2014.
Michigan is one of 14 states which has seen "statistically significant" increases in the rate from 2013 to 2014. Last year, 47,055 people died from drug overdoses —1.5 times greater than the number killed in car crashes. Opioids are involved in 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths. In Michigan, deaths from drug overdose rose 13 percent in 2014 compared to the year prior. Last October, Gov. Rick Snyder, under the state's newly formed Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, released more than two dozen recommendations to tackle state's drug abuse 'crisis.'
Fox News17, West Michigan/May 18, 2016
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