The prescription drug pricing scheme in the United States is set up in a way that makes it relatively easy for companies to change pricing, embracing the free market approach to pharmaceuticals. Kaleo, a pharmaceutical company, has recently taken advantage of this in conjunction with the opioid and heroin epidemic that has swept the country.
Naloxone is a drug that can reverse a heroin or opioid overdose, and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971. Evzio is the branded version of a Naloxone injection. When Evzio hit the market in 2014, it was priced at $690. Today, Evzio costs $4,500. The need for Naloxone has increased dramatically, with more people being killed by drug overdoses in the United States than by car crashes and gun violence. Kaleo has cashed in on this by increasing the price of Evzio by 400%. They say it is justified because of Evzio’s easy-to-use and life-saving delivery system, but Joseph Ross, a New England Journal of Medicine study author and Yale professor, sees this as nothing more than “raising prices for a product that makes use of a novel delivery system to provide a decades old, off-patent drug”.
This begs the question of why, when the country is facing an out of control opioid epidemic, are they doing this? The answer, quite simply, is because they can.