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America VS Big Pharma: Fighting for Naloxone Funding

America VS Big Pharma: Fighting for Naloxone Funding

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in 1971 the brand name Narcan, generic- Naloxone, was introduced to the world. The opiate overdose antidote has become a popular topic of discussion in our world today. With heroin, fentanyl and other dangerous opioid drugs feeding the opiate epidemic and overdose outbreak, these medications are sought after as the life-line pulling addicts back from deaths door.

With the rise in opiate abuse came the rise in demand, and with the rise in demand we were shown a side of Big Pharma that has many in an uproar. Since 1971 the price for Narcan has grown 4,000 percent! Yes, 4 with 3 zeros after it!

I’ve written before about this trend; something I consider to be a disheartening injustice and abuse of power. Today I want to re-emphasize the point by looking into some specifics about the lengths many have to go to in order to provide this life-saving medicine to their citizens. Let’s talk about America VS Big Pharma and the fight for Naloxone funding.

Baltimore’s Battle for Naloxone

In 2014 Baltimore, Maryland was referred to as “Heroin Capital of America” with an estimated 60,000 heroin addicts out of a population of 645,000. While Baltimore may no longer be one of the top states in overdose deaths, the state’s budget shows:

  • $33,540 on Naloxone in 2014
  • $118,236 on Naloxone for the fiscal year of 2016

So in two years, Baltimore has more than tripled the amount of money spent on Naloxone. Baltimore’s Health Commissioner Leana Wen continues to work at sounding the alarm across the country for Naloxone price gouging since stepping into the position in 2015. In March she called on Congress to enact price controls on the drug in the interest of public safety. In her plea Wen stated,

“The cost of naloxone skyrocketing means that we can only save a fraction of the lives we were able to before… Manufacturers have claimed that this price increase is related to increased demand. However, it is unclear why the cost of a generic medication that is available for much lower costs in other countries will be suddenly so expensive.”

Pennsylvania in Pain

In Pennsylvania drug overdoses tied to opioids rose nearly a quarter last year, yet these communities are still dependent on the goodwill of charitable organizations and health insurance companies. These resources are meaningful, but don’t go far enough!

  • Pittsburgh-based Highmark Foundation donated $50,000 in the first quarter of last year to purchase Naloxone to local law enforcement agencies. But it didn’t renew the grant this year.
  • Health insurers contributed a total of $500,000 in Pennsylvania alone to fund naloxone distribution.
  • Cigna Foundation donated $50,000 this year to fund Naloxone access
  • Independence Blue Cross joined the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association in a providing $50,000 to provide Naloxone to first responders

But most patrol officers still don’t have it! As of 2016 Naloxone kits have only been distributed to about 15% of Philadelphia police officers!

Delaware County has taken extra measures. Officials made it so money seized during drug investigations under asset forfeiture laws could be used to support its Naloxone program.

In case you didn’t know, Pittsburgh doesn’t play either. In July one judge ordered two convicted drug dealers to throw in almost $4,000 for Naloxone funding. Now that is a new brand of justice.

Rhode Island’s Settlement Savings

This was a desperate move indeed, as Rhode Island reached into the $230 million settlement with Google for $40 million to help keep its program alive. This settlement is from when Google facilitated the illegal online exchange of prescription drugs from Canada.

5 Government Interventions

  1. Big Pharma Letters

In June Senate Special Committee on Aging addressed a letter to five leading naloxone manufactures requesting an explanation for increasing drug costs. These companies are:

  • Amphaster Pharmaceuticals

Amphaster Pharma’s price went from $12 in 2012 to $41 a dose as of 2015.

  • Pfizer
  • Adapt Pharmaceuticals

Adapt’s Narcan nasal spray costs $63 each dose. Although it does cut price in half for government agencies, community organizations, and patients without insurance

  • Kaleo Pharma

Price went from $375 in November 2015 to $1,875 in February 2016. Now, only 7 months later, it’s up to $2,250 for a single-dose injector!

  • Mylan Inc.

Most of these companies claimed the price hikes are due to additional burdens they face to meet the exponential demands. Yet, this excuse isn’t flying with many healthcare advocates. The executive director of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, Dan Bigg, has said in response,

“We’re not talking about a limited commodity. Naloxone is a medicine that is almost as cheap as sterile sodium chloride—salt water,”

As far as more help from the powers that be, many state and local governments are reaching into emergency funding to provide Naloxone to first responders. Other government programs have been put in a position to help, but is that help enough?

  1. Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Grant Program

The Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Grant Program distributes $1.5 million from government funding, but it had to be split between 15 communities. This has helped some, but left many officials scavenging for financing to be prepared for 2017. Many are calling on the government to assume even more costs.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grants

States do have authorization to draw on these funds to subsidize Naloxone purchases. However, in the words or Peter Luongo, executive director of the Institute for Research, Education & Training in the Addictions, “That’s not new money.”

What this means is that officials must now move the money out of other programs for addiction prevention and treatment. So instead of getting more help, they are having to pick-and-choose which help is more necessary.

  1. Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

This summer President Obama signed for this initiative. It means to call for expanding first-responder access to Naloxone. However, the fact remains that CARA funding has not yet been established by Congress.

  1. Department of Health and Human Services

Supposedly starting this month this office will be providing up to $11 million to fund Naloxone distribution. However even this great contribution will only apply to a dozen states.

The Overdose Oligopoly

The reality is this is a fight we need to talk more about. Despite all these government interventions, why is it we still cannot keep up with Big Pharma pricing?

So far nothing seems to justify the monopolizing and exploitation of the opiate epidemic by Big Pharma. These companies are actively increasing the price of a life-saving medication by over 1,000% in many cases during a period in which tens of thousands of people all over the country are dying!

Whether you know all that much about economics, Big Pharma is making millions upon millions of dollars off of these medications. They claim to be trying to keep up with costs, yet continue to show increasing profit. Call it what it is- extortion via oligopoly.

Naloxone and Narcan may not be the miracle cure for opiate addiction, but for many it is the only reason they are alive. So, how many can say the lack of access is the only reason their loved one is not? Surely, Naloxone access expansion is taking off in a new way. CVS stores, schools and all types of venues are providing kits, training and other resources. The only problem is, they are struggling to maintain those resources.

We, as a nation, should expect better than this.

A bigger part of getting better is beyond the medication used to preserve life. Real recovery begins with the process of working to change a life. Holistic addiction treatment allows people who were once hopeless build the foundation of hope again. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call Palm Partners. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Congress Investigating Big Pharma Price Gouging

Congress Investigating Big Pharma Price Gouging

Author: Justin Mckibben

Anyone remember the outrage that came about in recent months when it was publicly announced that Big Pharma companies were purchasing the rights to manufacture and distribute life-saving medications and then gouging the prices at astronomical and frankly offensive rates?

There was the story of Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who hijacked the life-saving AIDS medication Daraprim, and then held it hostage with a price hike of 5,455% increase, going from Daraprim costing $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

Then came J. Michael Pearson, the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, who increased the price of 56 of the drugs in the last year alone, and acquired the drug Zegerid and promptly raised the price by 550% overnight.

Well now it seems the powers that be have had enough of the price gouging nonsense. Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has made it a personal point to attack the status of Big Pharma price spikes since his campaign began, and now it seems Sanders and other crusaders are getting some extra muscle from the United States Congress.

House Announced Big Pharma Investigation

The announcement comes after waves of outrage concerning the way that Big Pharma is manipulating the drug market to leach as much as they can out of the American consumers who are in serious need for the drugs they are producing. The United States House of Representatives investigative panel has given a declaration that they do plan to hold a hearing next year on drastically rising drug costs.

Now, considering the recent news that drew a lot more attention to this pertinent issue, the focus could mainly be on the pricing tactics of one pharmaceutical company in particular: Mr. Pearson’s Big Pharma giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

According to a spokeswoman for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform said the investigation into drug policies of these Big Pharma bullies is already underway, and the panel has solicited numerous drug companies for further information.

Not-So-Valiant Valeant

The U.S. Senate Special Committee already launched a probe earlier this month into drug pricing at Valeant, which isn’t too surprising considering what we already know. Then there comes the info involved with one of their most recently publicized problems.

Some of the top executives working with Valeant were directly involved with the operations of specialty pharmacy Philidor Rx Services. Philidor Rx Services had caught some heat for their questionable business model after a recent report claimed that two Valeant employees were copied on an email last November that explained how employees at Philidor could bill the highest amount an insurance company was willing to pay by resubmitting rejected claims at different price points.

Representative Elijah Cummings is the top Democrat on the investigative panel seeking to expose unjust and illegal actions in the Big Pharma activities and he wrote,

“Valeant employees may have been personally involved in questionable billing practices that led Valeant to cut ties with Philidor last month.”

Valeant later acknowledged a relationship with Philidor Rx Services shortly after the scandal, but claimed to have cut ties with Philidor because they had “lost confidence” in them due to questions about their business practices. Not-so-valiant Valeant Chief Executive Pearson has not commented on any of the ongoing investigations.

Focus in the Fight

While many have a dubious perspective of the dignity of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, they are definitely not the only Big Pharma focus of the investigation.

Turing Pharmaceutical earned its own focus from the House panel for its own dissatisfying pricing strategies. Martin Shkreli angered just about everyone with the announcement of his price spike, but he announced a few days later that he would lower the price of the drug “in response to the anger that was felt by people.”

Despite Shkreli’s quick backpedaling, it seems it hasn’t been enough to keep his company out of the spot light.

With all this happening, one can only hope that it sheds some light on the way Big Pharma has been abusing the power that comes with producing life-saving prescription drugs. Some Big Pharma companies are helping in the fight with cheap alternatives, so what else can be done?

Don’t even get me started again on how the Big Pharma company behind Naloxone has steadily increased the price of the opiate overdose antidote that is so desperately needed all over the country. In my opinion- these people need investigated!

I honestly feel like Amphastar Pharmaceuticals is blackmailing America with a medication when it could not be more necessary to have expansive and all-inclusive access to- considering the casualties and calamities created by the opiate epidemic. Yet while the states are passing legislation to make it more available, the Big Pharma bosses seem to gradually raise the price as the epidemic worsens… how many opportunists does it take to undermine the efforts to save a nation?

Well if Big Pharma doesn’t want to help, Congress seems more than happy to take a closer look at WHY they need to make it harder on those who are trying to help the addicts in their communities. Not everyone gets the treatment they need, but it is possible and we want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Company Fights Big Pharma Bullies Prices with Cheap Alternative

Company Fights Big Pharma Bullies Prices with Cheap Alternative

Author: Justin Mckibben

Are there any good guys left in the business of medicine?

Might not seem so considering we have talked a lot recently about Martin Shkreli and how he ultimately became infamous via online and every media outlet that would show his face as one of the most hated men online thanks to an almost deliberate demonstration of opportunistic business tactics at the expensive of the customer, who just so happens to be wrought with cancer and/or AIDS… yeah, he’s a real charmer. Being referred to as the ‘Big Pharma Bro’ I would call him something else… but I digress.

Spoiler Alert: Shkreli is NOT too popular these days. If you’re tired of reading about him, skip ahead to the good news at the bold words.

Shkreli is the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, and now his name is on its way to going down in history with infamy after his company acquired a life-saving medication used to treat patients deathly sick with AIDS or cancer, and then gouged the price of the drug up to $750 a pill.

Then came current CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, J. Michael Pearson, who was shamed through his comments in regards to outrageous price gouging, implying that the companies allegiances were to the shareholders who put made money and invested in them instead of the sick and suffering customers who desperately depend on their medications.

And don’t even get me started on how one of the companies behind the supply of naloxone is slowly but steadily raising their prices in the face of one of the worst periods of death and destruction in the heroin epidemic… OR how Purdue Pharm has stood to make ridiculous amounts of money from the FDA approving OxyContin for kids!

Needless to say, the Big Pharma industry lately has been looking an awful lot like warlords of the dark ages when it comes to caring about the customer.

Just when you thought all hope was lost, this piece of news might just help restore your faith in humanity… as long as it’s not too good to be true. A drug company in San Diego actually announced on Thursday that it would make it a mission to compete with Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals by offering the same drug used to help AIDS and cancer patients for $1 a pill!

Imprimis to the Rescue

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals is a compounding-drug firm based out of San Diego, California. Recently company officials stated the Big Pharma company would now start selling its own version of the generic drug pyrimethamine, which Turing was advertising under the name Daraprim.

The big difference here is that the version Imprimis provides is actually a combination method of treatment, and included in this cheap alternative method of treatment are two generic drugs:

  • Pyrimethamine
  • Leucovorin

Leucovorin is a medication typically utilized in an effort to help treat cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy.

But Imprimis has a game plan built on the grounds that these two drugs are actually the same active ingredients in the Turing Pharmaceutical version of Daraprim. Mark Baum, who essentially sounds like a Bruce Wayne of heroic Big Pharma proportions, is the CEO of Imprimis. Baum said that his company plans to offer similar compounded drugs soon, so hopefully Imprimis is making a big part of its product and business development strategy taking some shots at the price gouging companies we have seem stepping all over the consumer to capitalize on the market.

Braum told the Associated Press,

“We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up. There’ll be many more of these.”

Now full disclosure here… there is a catch… kind of…

Baum has admitted in his statements that his company’s mix of the two drugs has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, both the ingredients themselves and the company’s compounding work have been approved! There are still some limits being imposed on access to the medications, and the drug can only be sold after being prescribed by a doctor to a specific individual.

Still, the company is selling a bottle of 100 pills for $99 through its website. At $1 a pill, it seems like they are at least making an effort to take some of the fight out of the Big Pharma bullies and put more power back in the hands of people who actively advocate for innovative and effective treatment. Maybe the medications haven’t earned their access to be mainstream quite yet, but just knowing there is a company out there that wants to deflate the bloated budgets of these Big Pharma monopolies to change the standard is remarkable.

Fingers crossed Baum and his company can deliver on these ideals.

Like I said before, it’s lucky people are starting to pay more attention to the bullies of Big Pharma and their greedy tactics. Big Pharma may not be the only problem, and some might even be the good guys, so hopefully we can all push for more solutions and less schemes. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


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