Senators push HHS to negotiate lower prices on opioid overdose reversal drug
A group of senators is urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take measures to reduce the price of a potentially life-saving medication reversing the effects of an opioid overdose.
An estimated 115 people die per day of an overdose involving an opioid. Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 13 Democratic senators signed a letter from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to call on HHS to negotiate a cheaper price for naloxone, which comes in the form of an injection or a nasal spray and is used to reverse opioid overdoses.
“No police officer, no firefighter, no public health provider, and no person should be unable to save a life because of the high price,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
“By bringing down the cost, we can get this life-saving drug in the hands of more people as called for by the Surgeon General. Doing so will save countless lives.”
Earlier this month, Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a rare public health advisory calling on more Americans to carry the medication. He noted, in particular, that it’s important for friends and family of those at risk of an opioid overdose to have naloxone on hand.
President Trump’s opioid commission called on the president to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, which the commission said could “empower the HHS Secretary to negotiate reduced pricing [of naloxone] for all governmental units.” A public health emergency was declared in late October and renewed again in January, but it doesn’t appear that the government has negotiated down the price of the drug, which the senators say has increased.
Lawmakers and the administration are grappling with how to combat opioid addiction, which is fueling increasing numbers of overdose deaths. Opioid-related fatalities increased nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016, fueled by a powerful synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin.