The Heroin Epidemic and the High Cost of the Naloxone Autoinjector
Is price preventing heroin users who overdose from getting life-saving treatment?
It goes on and on, town after town. You open a newspaper, and the name of yet another town where heroin is taking over jumps out at you, and you know it’s happening in state after state, not just yours. On Monday it was Staten Island, NY, which the paper identified as a blue collar enclave. Yet another 21 year-old had died of a heroin overdose, and there went a 23-year-old, too.
You just don’t want to believe that so many young people are picking up a needle and injecting themselves with the deadly drug. And then you remember that they think they’re invincible, that it’s not going to happen to them. Or they’ve been clean for awhile, and one act of shooting up the same amount as they did the last time was the culprit.
There’s the clinical, detached response to the heroin epidemic, and then there’s the personal that all too many families know too well. But after awhile, when the numbers become overwhelming, even if you don’t know anyone who died from an overdose, it all becomes personal.
Along with the deaths, Evzio, the portable injector for Naloxone, holds out hope of saving some young people who have overdosed. It wasn’t that long ago that treating overdoses was controversial because some people were afraid of the liability, but more and more towns and EMS groups are training people on how to use Naloxone.
Unfortunately, there’s a rub, and a big one. Evzio is expensive, and it’s a shame, because it’s available to everyone and anyone. It can be kept in schools, in homes, in clubs, and in police cars. Some people say that it will result in increased drug use, but when you look at the numbers, that’s a pretty sad argument.
Mentioning the cost of devices like the autoinjector, or life-saving medications that are high-priced, is still taboo in our society, notes the writer of this article, titled For Drugs That Save Lives, a Steep Cost. A simple shot of naloxone costs about $3.00, but some people are projecting that the autoinjector may be priced at about $500. Britain has a board that “weighs in on the value of new devices and drugs,” but the writer says that’s not the case in U.S., so no one here is trying to negotiate on price. A pharmaceutical consultant joined the conversation to say that these days companies have a harder time claiming that it costs an enormous amount to bring a drug to market since they often had government-funded research and they included marketing costs in the total.
So now they argue that health is priceless. For Evzio, people are touting ease of use, and it’s not even for sale yet. Police departments are using a spray kit to spray naloxone into victim’s nose, which, at $42, is still high. Maybe everyone should be trained on how to use Evzio, like everyone is encouraged to get training in CPR.