How much is a life worth to one person? How much is it worth to a company concerned with bottom-line and profit shares? The answer to both questions will probably vary, depending on who you ask. And surely, any attempt to quantify the value of a life will probably come up short. But the question needs to be asked considering a trend occurring in the pharmaceutical industry, involving staggering price hikes on life-saving drugs. A trend which seems to have first caught the public’s eye in 2015 with the price hike on an AIDS treatment.
Who can forget when Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of toxoplasmosis treatment drug Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill (a 5,000 percent increase). Cases like the price hike on Daraprim, are not, in fact, unique. In recent years, there has been a growing demand for the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, sold under the brand name of Narcan and Evzio. And, as a result the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the miracle drugs have been steadily, egregiously raising prices.
In order to ensure that health agencies and police departments can afford to buy naloxone, the Attorney General of Ohio made an agreement with Adapt Pharma (makers of Narcan) to freeze the Public Interest Price for one year at $75 for two 4 mg doses of the drug. It was a clear sign that “big pharma” understood the importance of keeping naloxone affordable. However, some companies have different ideas about affordability all together.
The makers of the naloxone auto-injector Evzio, Kaleo, increased the price for two doses from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 in 2017, Forbes reports. Kaleo’s Evzio features a talking component which talks the average person through administering the drug to an overdose victim.
“There’s absolutely nothing that warrants them charging what they’re charging,” said Leo Beletsky, associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University, to Philly.com.
As you can probably imagine, the reason for raising the price is not based on the price of making the product or the medication. There has been a price increase on naloxone, doubling to $150 for a 10cc vial, according to the article. However, the price hikes are not in-line with what it cost to make the drug. Eliza Wheeler of San Francisco’s Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit that works to combat overdoses and has received donations of Evzio, says:
“I might have $10,000 to spend on naloxone for a year, to supply a whole city. If I have 10 grand to spend, I certainly can’t buy two Evzios.”