Sanders pushes for lower price for heroin overdose drug

Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClinton allies see big boost from Brown endorsement The Trail 2016: Biting the hand that feeds him Budowsky: The campaign from hell MORE (I-Vt.) is calling on state governments to work to lower the price of a drug used to treat heroin overdoes. 

The liberal presidential candidate challenging Hillary Clinton has joined Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, in pressing for action in what they say is a public health emergency.

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“The opioid abuse epidemic is a public health emergency that must be addressed, and no company should jeopardize the progress many states have made in tackling this emergency by overcharging for a critically important drug like naloxone,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the National Governors Association and National Association of Attorneys General.

The lawmakers specifically are pressing for state governments to reach deals with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, the maker of naloxone, a drug that reverses the depression of the central nervous system caused by heroin and other opioids.

The cost of naloxone has been rising, by as much as 50 percent according to an article in the New York Times. 

In February, the New York attorney general announced an agreement with Amphastar to reduce by almost 20 percent the cost of the drug to law enforcement and public health officials in the state. 

“We encourage all of your members to consider negotiating agreements with Amphastar to make naloxone more widely available in every state," Sanders and Cummings wrote.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been concerned with the growing number of deaths from heroin and prescription drugs. 

Sanders and Cummings have put attention on drug prices in other areas as well. The pair introduced a bill in May to require generic drug manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicaid when their drug prices rise faster than inflation. 

Sanders has long made curbing drug prices part of his push to reform what he calls an overly costly healthcare system. He has also pushed for government-run, “single-payer” health insurance.

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said in a statement at the time of introducing the bill. “For years, generic drugs have made it possible for people to buy the medicine they need at lower prices. We need to make certain that generics remain affordable.”

Generic drugs have long been viewed as cheaper alternatives to brand-name drugs, but prices even for generics have been rising recently.