Blumenthal Calls on Amphastar to Reverse Obscene and Immoral Narcan Price Hike, Urges FTC to Investigate Prescription Drug Profiteering and Price Gouging

Blumenthal Survey of Connecticut Fire and EMS Department Found Massive Narcan Price Increases, Widespread Concern For Budget Impact and Future Access

(Hartford, CT) - At a press conference with Connecticut first responders and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today called on Amphastar to roll back its obscene and immoral Narcan price hikes, and urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible illegal profiteering and price gouging for Narcan and other life-saving drugs.

Produced by Amphastar, Narcan is a life-saving drug carried by all paramedics and many first responders in Connecticut that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. But as the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to spiral across Connecticut, and as use of Narcan becomes more prevalent, the cost of the drug has inexplicably skyrocketed from a little as a dollar or two a dose to over $50, impacting state and local budgets. Blumenthal conducted a survey of Connecticut fire departments and emergency medical services. All respondents reported significant increases in the cost of Narcan, with many expressing concern about the impact on their budgets and implication for future access. A summary of the findings follows:

  • Enfield EMS reported a nearly 130 percent increase over the past few months. Naloxone used to make up about nine percent of their medication budget. So far this fiscal year, Naloxone has taken up over 25 percent of their budget.
  • The New Haven Fire Department reported they are “heavily impacted by the increased pricing of Naloxone.” They are concerned that the expected $14,000 they will spend on Naloxone next year will cause an access problem.
  • Cornwall EMS reported that the price of Naloxone has increased by 100 percent since this summer, calling the new price a “sudden increase.”
  • Campion Ambulance Service in Litchfield County reported a shocking 355 percent increase in Naloxone’s price from 2012 to 2015.
  • The East Harford Fire Department reported a nearly 250 percent spike in price from between January and July of this year.
  • Trumbull EMS said the medication is “a great lifesaving tool, but the price has been increased significantly.”
  • Common Cents EMS Supply LLC reported that Naloxone “more than doubled in wholesale price in September of 2014.”
  • American Medical Response, the largest provider of out of hospital medical supplies in the country, noted that the price they paid for Naloxone has increased by nearly 125 percent since 2011.
  • Seymour Ambulance Association has seen the price of Naloxone go from “a few dollars” last year to a cost of $54.00 for the same pre-filled 2 ml syringe.
  • The Willimantic Fire Department reported a nearly 125 percent price increase from one of their distributors, stating it causes a “substantial hit in our budget.”

“These arbitrary and indiscriminate price increases are threatening future access to this life-saving drug. As a deadly opioid abuse epidemic continues to plague the state and region, Narcan costs have inexplicably skyrocketed, rising from as little as a dollar or two in recent years to over $50 a dose. Access to Narcan must be protected and preserved, and I urge Amphastar to correct this egregious wrong and rollback these price hikes,” Blumenthal said. “Sadly, this profiteering is not an isolated matter, as we have seen with the outrageous and immoral attempt by Turing Pharmaceuticals to increase the price for Daraprim by 5,000 percent. I call on the FTC to investigate and use the full force of their enforcement powers against any company that abuses their market power to engage in this kind of callous and abusive price gouging.” 

Full text of the letter to Amphastar follows.

Dear Dr. Zhang:

I am writing to request how Amphistar plans to contain the increasing price of Naxolone, an antidote used to treat the life-threatening effects of opiate overdoses, and what steps you are currently taking to bring Naxlone pricing back to a reasonable rate.

As you know, opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose has hit epidemic levels nationwide with both state and federal officials seeking solutions to save lives and curb addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Americans between the ages of 25 and 64, with 120 Americans dying as the result of overdose each day.[1]

Heroin addiction and opiate-related deaths have ransacked my home state of Connecticut, along with the rest of the Northeast region. In 2012, the number of opioid deaths in Connecticut was 195. By 2014, this number has skyrocketed to a staggering 347 deaths, spanning across the state from rural communities to larger cities.[2] I, like many others, am seeking answers from first responders, law enforcement officials, medical professionals, and mental health and substance use experts to discuss what can be done to control and constrain this epidemic.

As the manufacturer of Naxolone, you too can help by reversing your obscene price hike on this life-saving treatment. Your product is the only opioid overdose treatment that is a pre-filled auto injection device that can be easily used by first responders, friends, and families. Its easy use has proven immensely effective in reversing the effects of opiate overdose, giving emergency personnel precious time needed to treat and transport the victim.

Unfortunately, while Connecticut and other states have promoted widespread use of Naxolone, your company has inexplicably and unconscionably raised the drug’s price. This sudden and substantial price increase is cause for scrutiny and concern. A survey of Connecticut fire departments and emergency medical services prove that Naxolone’s skyrocketing costs have already resulted in barriers to access for Connecticut’s first responders. The responses are summarized below:

  • Enfield EMS has seen a nearly 130% increase over the past few months. Naloxone used to make up about 9% of their medication budget. So far this fiscal year, Naloxone has taken up over 25% of their budget.
  • The New Haven Fire Department stated they are “heavily impacted by the increased pricing of Naloxone.” They are concerned that the expected $14,000 they will spend on Naloxone next year will cause an access problem.
  • Cornwall EMS reported back that the price of Naloxone has increased by 100% since this summer, calling the new price a “sudden increase.”
  • Campion Ambulance Service in Litchfield County has seen a shocking 355% increase in Naloxone’s price from 2012 to 2015.
  • The East Harford Fire Department has seen a nearly 250% spike in price from between January and July of this year.
  • Trumbull EMS said the medication is “a great lifesaving tool, but the price has been increased significantly.”
  • Common Cents EMS Supply LLC informed us that Naloxone “more than doubled in wholesale price in September of 2014.”
  • American Medical Response, the largest provider of out of hospital medical supplies in the country, noted that the price of Naloxone have increased by nearly 125% since 2011.
  • Seymour Ambulance Association has seen the price of Naloxone go from “a few dollars” last year to a cost of $54.00 for the same pre-filled 2 ml syringe.
  • The Willimantic Fire Department saw a nearly 125% price increase from one of their distributors, stating it causes a “substantial hit in our budget.”

At a time when the CDC is declaring opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose a “public health crisis” and state governments are working furiously to find answers, Amphastar’s obscene price hikes are harmful to the health of our nation.[3] By substantively increasing the price of Naloxone, Amphastar is creating an unjustifiable economic barrier between a life-saving drug and the people it is meant to save. I request that Amphastar outline its steps to bring the price of Naloxone back to a reasonable rate before it drains local budgets and endangers the health of communities nationwide. I look forward to hearing back from Amphastar regarding this important issue.

Sincerely,

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