Heroin anti-overdose drug increases in popularity, price as Illinois adopts new battle plan

Associated Press

The "gold standard antidote" for heroin overdoses is rapidly rising in price, as well as popularity.

Naxolone and similar drugs which reverse the effects of opioid overdose have as much as quadrupled in price in the last two years, Phil Williams of Edward Elmhurst Healthcare told the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/1LF3Kf3 ).

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As new laws to fight heroin abuse take effect in Illinois and elsewhere, the price could continue to go up. Manufacturers appear to be taking advantage of the focus on what experts say is a heroin-abuse epidemic, said Williams, administrative director of pharmacy services.

"It's an opportunity for them to say, 'We've got a captured market and we can increase the cost and drive our profit margins,'" he said.

Naxolone — the "gold standard," according to Williams — blocks receptors in the brain that are stimulated by opioids and allows the victim of an overdose to start breathing again. Available since 1971, its use will jump because a state law that took effect this month requires emergency responders to carry it.

A dose that cost as little as $5 two years ago now is about $40, Williams said.

Coroner Richard Jorgensen of DuPage County, where more than 2,000 trained officers have carried the drug since 2014, says the price could spike just as officials must replace unused portions reaching their two-year expiration date.

Hospira is one of the few companies that manufacture the drug in generic form. As for price, a spokesman would only say a dose costs about as much as fast-food meals for four.

Jorgensen said it's worth the cost. He said the drug has saved 71 lives since authorities began carrying it last year.

Chelsea Laliberte, founder of the anti-heroin education program called Live 4 Lali, said naloxone will be available over the counter in the future, but she doesn't expect that very soon and doesn't know how much it will cost.

"It's a lifesaving tool, so we need to make it as affordable as possible, especially for people who can't afford much," Laliberte said.

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Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com