Over 800 opioid overdose victims have been saved by Naloxone. Family members administer this life-saving drug as a nasal spray or subcutaneous injection, while medical professionals inject it into a vein or muscle. Maryland is seeing a spike of opioid overdose and Naloxone is the only solution to reviving addicts once they have stopped breathing.
Baltimore public health officials rely on Naloxone to combat the growing heroin epidemic, but the drug continues to increase in price. The price increase is putting a strain on the campaign to stop or slow the rate of overdose deaths.
According to Baltimore health officials, the price of the Naloxone nasal spray has jumped 63 percent and the injectable version increased 500 percent in the past two years. Drug makers fight back, by saying the consumer rarely pays the list price for Naloxone and the sales also go to fund charitable programs to give the drug away.
“We shouldn’t be priced out of saving lives,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner. “In a time of a public health emergency, we should be making it more affordable and available.”
Health officials say that wider use of the drug could save even more people, but the price increases are making it more difficult for hard-hit cities like Baltimore to purchase and distribute the Naloxone, without breaking the bank.
Other notable drugs that have experienced a jump in price are EpiPen and Daraprim. Local legislatures and Congress are currently investigating the price increases and contemplating on several remedies.
The price hikes hit people with public and private health insurance coverage the hardest. The city’s addicts are reliant on Medicaid, a low-income public health program, which drops the burden in the laps of the state and federal government. Medicaid has paid 4,631 claims for Naloxone every quarter for the past two years. In 2015, the public health program paid 921 claims, which shows a major spike in the use of the drug.
Health officials are constantly seeking donations and charitable gifts for free drugs from manufacturers and government grants. If these cannot be secured, they will end up squeezing the department budgets.
Towns, cities and counties throughout the nation are feeling the impact of the opioid addiction epidemic, so Baltimore is not alone. In 2015, Baltimore police were given $25,000 from the Open Society Institute, a nonprofit drug addiction treatment program, for training on how to use the drug properly.
According to the latest data, 481 overdose deaths were reported in the first nine months of 2016, in Baltimore. When compared to the year before the overdose deaths had increased from 393.