Naloxone is an injectable medication capable of reversing an opioid overdose. However, many Americans who need this life-saving drug find it can be expensive and hard to find in some areas. Thanks to legislative changes across the country, many first responders now carry Naloxone for emergency use, and individuals can purchase it at most pharmacies without prescriptions. Kaleo is the only approved manufacturer of injectable Naloxone devices with digital voice commands to assist users in proper administration of the drug.
Kaleo, the Virginia-based manufacturer of the Evzio Naloxone injection device, recently announced their decision to release a generic version of this life-saving drug at a list price of only $178 per carton. By comparison, Kaleo markets brand-name Evzio at about $4,000 per carton. The company plans to release the generic version of Evzio by midyear 2019, offering early access to first responders, emergency departments, police stations, government agencies, and other qualified organizations that purchase the drug directly from Kaleo or their authorized distributors.
Why Is Naloxone So Important?
While the news of a price drop may be a relief to many people at risk of suffering opioid overdoses, the manufacturer’s decision to offer a lower-cost version of Naloxone is not an entirely altruistic decision; the change comes on the heels of the revelation that the manufacturer increased the price nearly 600% over only a few years while the country faced an intense struggle with opioid addiction and climbing overdose rates.
This was a blatantly exploitative pricing maneuver as Kaleo essentially has the market cornered; Naloxone is the only reliable injectable medication currently capable of reversing an opioid overdose, potentially saving a life. Opioid addiction, overdose, and overdose death rates have climbed across virtually every part of the United States over the last decade, causing a severe public health crisis and inspiring new legislation in many states.
How Does Naloxone Work?
Naloxone only works on a person who has opioids in his or her system; it will have no effect on a person if he or she has not taken any opioids recently. The drug is an opioid antagonist, meaning the drug has a higher attraction to opioid receptors in the human body than actual opioids. Naloxone effectively moves opioid molecules out of the body’s opioid receptors temporarily, essentially reversing the symptoms of an opioid overdose.
The drug only lasts for 20 to 90 minutes, but this can be enough time for a person in the middle of an opioid overdose to breathe again and potentially find life-saving medical treatment. An opioid overdose can manifest very quickly, and in past years it has been difficult for many people who need Naloxone to find it in time.
Availability And Price Concerns
For years, Naloxone was only available for emergencies in many states from police stations and hospitals, and this unfortunately deterred many people from seeking this medication out of fear of facing drug charges for opioid abuse. In response to the escalating opioid crisis across the country, many state lawmakers moved to make it easier to obtain Naloxone. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of local sites offering Naloxone increased threefold from 188 to 644*. Additionally, the number of laypeople provided with Naloxone kits increased dramatically, from 53,032 to 152,283.
The number of states with at least one organization providing Naloxone also increased, up to 30 in 2014 from 16 in 2010. During those four years, the number of reported overdose reversals increased more than 2.5 times, from 10,171 in 2010 to 26,463 in 2014. Between the fourth quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2015, the number of Naloxone prescriptions filled at U.S. pharmacies increased nearly twelvefold. Today, all 50 states and all U.S. territories provide paramedic training for Naloxone treatment, ensuring first responders have access to this drug and the training to use it appropriately.
Price Drop In Response To Congressional Pressure
Kaleo announced the generic version of Ezvio will come from a subsidiary company, but Kaleo has announced they plan to reduce the price of their name-brand Naloxone cartons to equivalent levels within the next 18 to 24 months. The company’s announcement of this significant price drop comes just one month following a U.S. Senate investigation that reported the company’s predatory price hikes over recent years as the country struggled with the opioid crisis. In July of 2014, a carton of Naloxone had a list price of about $575. By January 2017 the price was about $4,100. The Senate investigation committee reported that within that time frame, Naloxone cost American taxpayers roughly $142 million.
Protecting Americans From Exploitative Practices
Senator Tom Carper, one of the leading figures in the Senate investigation into Kaleo, said that the news the company plans to reduce the price of Naloxone should serve as a wakeup call to other drug manufacturers engaged in predatory price hikes**. Drug manufacturers should not be able to effectively hold American lives hostage by exploiting the demand for a life-saving medication.
Roughly 130 people die every day in the U.S. from opioid overdoses, and ensuring that Naloxone is affordable and accessible can potentially help curb this trend and reduce opioid overdose rates nationwide.
Finding Naloxone In Your Area
Over the past several years, every state in the U.S. has enacted laws increasing the availability of Naloxone as every state has faced serious problems from the ongoing opioid crisis. If you or a loved one struggle with opioid addiction, having Naloxone ready and available for emergency use can potentially save a life. Additionally, the experience of an opioid overdose could potentially be the wakeup call a person needs to finally seek treatment for opioid addiction.
Most states have enacted Good Samaritan laws that prevent individuals who seek Naloxone or emergency services on behalf of someone else from suffering drug-related criminal charges. If you notice someone displaying symptoms of an opioid overdose, do not hesitate to call for help or take the person to the emergency room for a Naloxone injection and further treatment. If you have Naloxone available, follow the included directions to administer it correctly and then find medical treatment for the victim.