Cantwell, Senators Demand Answers about Outrageous Price Hike for Lifesaving Anti-Opioid Drug

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a group of 29 senators to demand answers from a leading pharmaceutical company about the dramatic price hike for a life-saving medication used to respond to opioid overdoses.

Recent reports unveiled that drug maker Kaléo Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures an easy-to-use injector device containing the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, raised its price from $690 in 2014, to $4,500 currently.  While the Evzio device has the potential to help thousands of individuals survive drug overdoses, the senators wrote that the inexplicable price hike “threatens to price-out families and communities that depend on naloxone to save lives.”

“At a time when Congress has worked to expand access to naloxone products and to assist state and local communities to equip first responders with this life-saving drug, this startling price hike appears to be beyond exploitative,” the Senators wrote Wednesday to Kaléo Pharmaceuticals CEO Spencer Williamson.

In Washington state, the number of opioids deaths has risen six-fold in the last 8 years. Emergency services professionals, public health departments, and local clinics from Seattle to Spokane rely on cheap access to Naloxone to drive down that death toll. Rural locations have the highest death rates in the country from opioid poisoning, and naloxone has the potential to save more lives in these areas. 

The bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law last year with help from Cantwell, includes a provision to help rural communities obtain the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone.  Following a push by Cantwell and fellow Democrats to fund CARA, Congress in December 2016 passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes $1 billion in federal grants to help states and local governments respond to the opioid and heroin epidemic.

The letter, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was also signed by Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Gary Peters (D-MI).

A copy of the letter to Kaléo Pharmaceuticals is available here.