To humanely combat the surge of opiate abuse in New York City, earlier this year the police department outfitted its officers with a drug to revive users out of overdoses that would otherwise prove fatal. But no good deed goes unpunished: the drug companies have jacked up the price of life-saving naloxone by more than 50%.
“It’s not an incremental increase,” the head of the Police Executive Research Forum told the Times. “There’s clearly something going on.”
An injectable dose of naloxone costs $3, but many police departments, including the NYPD, have opted to use a form of the drug administered as a nasal spray, which requires a higher concentration and also less medical training (though one expert has said giving the injection is "no more complicated than basting a turkey"). This form of naloxone comes in a kit that used to cost around $20, and now costs in excess of $40.
A new injectable device designed to be used by people without training promises to make naloxone injections easy. It costs $500.
“We’ve had a pretty steady price for several years now,” Matt Curtis of VOCAL-New York tells the paper. “Then these big government programs come in and now all of a sudden we’re seeing a big price spike. The timing is pretty noticeable.”
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's plan to outfit state law enforcement officers with the drug may now be in jeopardy. A Health Department spokesperson said city officials are "concerned" that the price increases may dry up the city's naloxone supply.
A spokesman from Amphastar, the company that produces the naloxone spray, told the Times that "manufacturing costs have increased on an annual basis."
So have the number of deaths due to opiate use. Nationally, drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of death by injury. Opioids like heroin and Oxycontin kill 16,000 people every year. More may die so that companies like Amphastar can increase their profits.