Naloxone is a drug that saves lives. As an opioid antagonist that counters the effects of drug overdoses, hospitals always keep some around in case the effects of painkillers go south and cause fatal central nervous system or respiratory depression. Naloxone is an essential part of emergency overdose response kits that save lives every day, and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It doesn’t cure addiction by any means, but it will help keep someone’s son, daughter, brother or sister alive for at least one more day in the hope they find treatment for their illness.
America now finds itself in the middle of a heroin epidemic, and we need all the help we can get. Due to its almost miraculous ability to bring someone on the brink of death back from an overdose, police and health officials are increasingly being equipped with injectors or nasal spray atomizers to combat overdose deaths. According to industry representatives, manufacturing costs for Naloxone have been on the rise for some time. While this is understandable (the drug is synthesized from the naturally derived opiate thebaine), the recent steep increase in prices tells a different story.
“It’s not an incremental increase … there’s clearly something going on,” Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the New York Times. Starting out with a successful pilot program in Staten Island in which police were given Naloxone kits, law enforcement and health officials across the country now want to equip people on the ground with the means to stop an overdose. At the same time this is happening prices for Naloxone have increased nearly 50%, due to “manufacturing costs.” Yeah, right.
“We’ve had a pretty steady price for several years now… 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,” said Matt Curtis, the policy director of VOCAL-New York, which “builds power among people affected by HIV/AIDS, drug use and mass incarceration to create healthy and just communities,” according to their website.
As soon as a drug company sees that their product is needed to save lives (and when I say needed, I mean needed), they see the opportunity to put the highest price they can on their drug. How much is your life worth? How much is your child’s life worth? Is it ethical to put a dollar sign on someone’s life? You be the judge.