Congressman Criticizes Maker of Overdose Antidote Naloxone for High Prices

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland criticized the maker of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone Tuesday for increasing the price of the drug as demand has increased. He spoke at the Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the heroin epidemic.

“We can no longer allow drug companies to keep ripping off the taxpayers for life-saving medications,” Cummings said. “Cities all around the country have recognized the need to equip their first responders, police officers and public health officials with naloxone — a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses in a matter of minutes.”

The Huffington Post reports Cummings said naloxone maker Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. has increased the price of the drug “by staggering amounts.” He noted that in May 2014, a 10-dose pack cost the Baltimore City Health Department roughly $190. “Guess what? Today, it costs more than $400 for a life-saving drug,” he said.

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CVS Will Sell Naloxone Without Prescription in 14 States

CVS announced it will add 12 states to its program to sell the opioid overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription, bringing the total to 14. The company already sells naloxone without a prescription in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin,” Tom Davis, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS, said in a statement. “Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives.”

The states included in Wednesday’s announcement are Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. According to The Huffington Post, pharmacy boards in these states can make decisions about offering naloxone without a prescription.

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Commentary: Naloxone Access and Good Samaritan Overdose Protection Laws Abound in State Legislatures

It is no secret that America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic resulting from the use of both pharmaceutical opioids and heroin. The scope of the epidemic is not clear, but the Centers for Disease Control estimates that opioid overdose deaths have surpassed motor vehicle accidents in annual fatalities, with approximately 44,000 drug overdose deaths each year.[1]

Increasingly, state lawmakers are recognizing the important role that naloxone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids in one’s body, can play in quelling the opioid crisis in the United States, and legislatures are enacting naloxone access laws at breakneck speed. Moreover, while there exist fewer Good Samaritan overdose protection laws which provide criminal immunity from arrest and prosecution on drug use or possession to those who call for medical assistance for someone who is overdosing, legislators are realizing that Good Samaritan laws are important if they want to encourage bystanders to call for emergency assistance in the event of an overdose.

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Some Experts Say Naloxone Alone Isn’t Enough to Address Opioid Addiction Crisis

As more states expand access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, some experts say more is needed to address the opioid addiction crisis, USA Today reports. Opioids include heroin as well as prescription drugs such as oxycodone.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states and the District of Columbia have implemented a law or developed a pilot program allowing naloxone to be administered by professional or lay persons. In some states, such as Ohio, people who administer naloxone must have specific training. Other states, such as Colorado, encourage education about overdoses and naloxone, but do not have training requirements.

Eric Fulcher, an emergency room physician at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, told the newspaper he generally supports wider access to naloxone. He is concerned, however, that new laws that expand naloxone access “totally ignore” the overall problem of addiction, and may signal an underlying acceptance of intravenous heroin use. “Politicians will feel like they’ve dealt with the problem,” he said.

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