Shumlin Calls On Drug Maker To Halt Rising Prices Of Heroin Antidote

Apr 8, 2015

Gov. Peter Shumlin says a drug manufacturer has dramatically raised the prices of life-saving medication used to prevent deaths from heroin overdoses.

Emergency responders and the state police use naloxone – also known by the  trade name Narcan – to reverse the effects of overdose. But the cost of the drug has spiked 62 percent in the last month. At a news conference Wednesday, Shumlin called on the manufacturer to lower prices.

"The company CEO has said, ‘Great, how can we make more money on this?’ and they've drastically increased prices,” Shumlin said. “So I want to thank my opiate addiction task force for joining me in sending a letter to the manufacturer asking them to return to more reasonable pricing.”

The governor says the drug has saved scores of lives in Vermont over the last few years. Grace Keller, a team leader at the HowardCenter in Burlington, said she saw a few weeks ago just how effective the drug can be in saving lives.

She arrived at work on a Friday morning and saw a car parked in the driveway. A young man was leaning over a woman trying to resuscitate her as he yelled for a naloxone kit.

“I looked at her and her eyes were closed and her lips were blue. I looked for breath, and she wasn’t breathing,” Keller recalled.  

"After watching someone come back from an overdose I will never be the same. In that moment, I, like our clients and their loved ones, realize how delicate life is, and how powerful naloxone is." - Grace Keller, HowardCenter team leader

The drug is given as a nasal spray, and after three doses, the woman revived.

“I watched the color returned to her lips, and she slowly looked at me and said, 'Who are you?’” Keller said. “I will never forget. After watching someone come back from an overdose I will never be the same. In that moment, I, like our clients and their loved ones, realize how delicate life is, and how powerful naloxone is.”

Keller said people whose lives are saved from an overdose often turn immediately to recovering from addiction. “We knew that this program would save lives; what we didn’t know is how strong and natural path to recovery it would prove to be,” she said.

The drug is made by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Shumlin says he has not heard from the company about why prices have risen so much.