Few will forget when the company behind the EpiPen priced them out of reach for most allergy patients in pursuit of profits, and now some fear those who produce life-saving Naloxon devices are following suit.
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Naxolon is arguably one of the most effective products on the market for reversing the potentially deadly effects of a heroin overdose, and Kaleo Pharmaceuticals CEO Spencer Williamson is supplying Baltimore, Maryland with it for free.
"We are going to make a donation of 10,000 doses of Naloxon to the City of Baltimore," Williamson announced at the Helping up Mission on East Baltimore Street Friday.
It is the second time Kaleo has made such a donation here, but at what cost?
"Saving a life is priceless. Right? So it's 20,000 doses that hopefully will save thousands and thousands of lives,” said Williamson, “It's hard to put a number on that."
But according to a December report in the New England Journal of Medicine, a twin-pack of Evzio, which cost $690 just over two years ago, costs $4,500 today.
Williamson says that price is a product of middle men, like pharmacy benefits managers and insurance companies, while his company remains focused on saving lives.
"Our focus is really on the price --- price to the patients is zero dollars. What the media has latched on to is our list price, which is really a price very few people actually pay and it's a price that the system is really driven by," said Williamson.
While heroin overdoses have claimed more lives than homicides in Baltimore over the last two years, City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says Naloxone has saved 800 lives, and products like Evzio have been miracle drugs.
"For every 11 units that we place into people's hands, one person's life is saved. That's incredible," said Wen.
But as prices for the life-saving drug rise across the board, Wen is calling on Maryland lawmakers to find out why.
"The price of generic Naloxon has more than doubled in the course of a couple of years, and we want an explanation for why that's the case,” said Wen, “If the price doubles that means that if we have the same amount allocated by the city, then we're only able to save half as many lives."
Thus far, the city hasn't purchased a single dose of the high-tech, talking injectors with a price to match, but Williamson doesn't seem to mind.
He says the company did raise its price last year, but only so it could to give more away to those who could least afford it.
"A young patient died that had a prescription (and) was blocked by their insurance company,” said Williamson, “We said, 'That's unacceptable.’ So we started two things. One, a big donation program and two, we found a way to say, 'You know what? We're going to make sure that even if it's blocked, Kaleo will step in and provide the product free of use."
Unlike the EpiPens, Williamson claims 200 million Americans can get the auto-injectors for free through their health insurance, as can people with a gross income of a $100,000 a year or less or the indigent through Kaleo's charitable programs.