U.S. senators want five drugmakers to account for increases in the price of a drug that’s used to reverse the effects of prescription and illegal opioids, as the number of Americans overdosing on painkillers and heroin has skyrocketed in recent years.
Senators Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, wrote to Pfizer Inc., Mylan NV, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc., Adapt Pharma Inc. and Kaleo Inc., asking them to explain price changes to the drug, naloxone.
They cited a report in Politico that at least one version of the drug has risen in price by as much as 17-fold in the last two years. Collins is the chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and McCaskill is the panel’s top Democrat.
“As we work to address a complex public health crisis, it is important that naloxone, a potentially lifesaving tool, be accessible,” the senators wrote in a letter dated June 3.
The senators also want to know what the companies are doing to preserve access to the drug, which hospitals have said they’ve had trouble obtaining.
About 20,000 Americans died from overdosing on prescription opioid painkillers in 2014, more than triple the number in 2001, according to the National Institutes of Health. Deaths from heroin, which also is an opioid, rose to 12,000 from 2,000 in the same period.
Naloxone has become increasingly popular as a way to treat overdoses, and can be used at the scene by police, paramedics, and other first responders. The Obama administration said in March it would provide $11 million to states to purchase naloxone and train emergency workers to administer it.
They often use an injectable version that has been turned into a nasal spray via a kit containing an atomizer. A dose of injectable naloxone cost about $30 last year — up about 1,000 percent from 15 years ago, according to Daniel Raymond, policy director for the advocacy group Harm Reduction Coalition.
Adapt’s naloxone nasal spray sells in packs of two single-spray devices for $75 to “public interest” customers, including law enforcement, firefighters and colleges, the company said in November when the spray was approved in the U.S.
Politico reported that the price of Kaleo’s auto-injecting naloxone, which is approved for people without medical training, rose to $3,750 per two-dose package in just two years, from $575.