Senators question price hike of opioid overdose treatment

(Reuters) - U.S. Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill on Thursday asked Kaleo Pharmaceuticals to justify the more than 550 percent surge in the price of its device to treat painkiller overdoses, becoming the second senator to question Evzio's $4,500 price tag.

Evzio contains the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and can be used in emergencies by people without medical training. Privately held Kaleo has raised the price of a twin-pack to $4,500, from $690 in 2014, according to a Kaiser Health News report.

RELATED: Photos of Claire McCaskill

Sen. Claire McCaskill
See Gallery
Sen. Claire McCaskill
U.S. Sen. Clair McCaskill (D-MO) speaks on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (L) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) talk after a news conference at a hotel in Havana February 17, 2015. Three Democratic U.S. Senators visiting Havana on Tuesday envisioned potential victory for legislation to lift the trade embargo on Cuba by appealing to the free-market instincts of Republicans who otherwise oppose President Barack Obama. Since Obama announced on Dec. 17 a major policy shift on Cuba and the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations, Republican and Democratic senators have introduced two separate bills to lift travel restrictions for Americans going to Cuba and to repeal the 53-year-old embargo. The senators concluded their four-day visit to Cuba on Tuesday in which they met with Cuban people and officials. It was the first trip to Cuba for each of them. They expressed optimism about building bipartisan support, possibly overcoming Republican reticence at providing a victory for the Democratic president. Klobuchar is the lead sponsor of the embargo bill and a co-sponsor of the travel bill. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS)
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee questions a witness in Washington July 17, 2014. The chief executive of Delphi Automotive, the auto supplier that supplied the defective switch to General Motors Co that has been linked to at least 13 deaths, said on Thursday that the automaker was responsible for approving the faulty part design. So far, GM has attributed 13 deaths and 54 crashes to the specific defect, in which the ignition switch can slip from the "run" to the "accessory" position, causing the engine to stall, air bags to not deploy, and a loss of power brakes and power steering. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER CRIME LAW POLITICS)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (bottom L) attends a meeting at the U.S. Attorney's office in St. Louis, Missouri August 20, 2014. In attendance were (clockwise from top L) Richard Callahan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo), Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Molly Moran, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo), Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo), and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo). Holder met with community members in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday and vowed a thorough civil rights probe into the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager that has set off 11 nights of racially charged unrest. REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) speaks about pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military at a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CRIME LAW)
U.S. Senate candidates for Missouri Todd Akin (R) and Senator Claire McCaskill debate in Columbia, Missouri, September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Sarah Conard (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
US President Barack Obama (2nd R) walks with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) (R) as they depart from the White House in Washington, March 10, 2010. Obama is traveling to St. Louis to deliver remarks on health care. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Michelle Obama (L), wife of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, sits with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) prior to the start of a townhall-style presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to speak at a fundraising dinner for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in St. Louis, Missouri, March 10, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) addresses a question during a "Health Care Listening Forum" at the UMKC campus in Kansas City, Missouri, August 24, 2009. REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES HEALTH POLITICS)
Women U.S. Senators pose together for a television special in the Capitol in Washington January 16, 2007. From left are Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Dole (R-SC), Patty Murray (D-WA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)
Claire McCaskill (C), Democratic candidate for U.S. State Senate in Missouri, speaks during her acceptance speech after defeating Senator Jim Talent in St. Louis, Missouri, November 7, 2006. REUTERS/Peter Newcomb (UNITED STATES)
Missouri Senate candidate Democrat Claire McCaskill (L) talks to campaign workers while her husband, Joseph Shepard (C), listens on election day in Kansas City, Missouri November 7, 2006. She is running an extremely tight race against incumbent Senator Jim Talent (R-MO). REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES)
Claire McCaskill, Democratic candidate for the U.S. State Senate in Missouri, uses the state's new touch screen voting machine as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections in Kirkwood, Missouri, November 7, 2006. REUTERS/Peter Newcomb (UNITED STATES)
Missouri Senate candidate Democrat Claire McCaskill addresses her supporters during a "Victory Party" in downtown Kansas City, Missouri November 7, 2006. She is running an extremely tight race against incumbent Senator Jim Talent (R-MO). REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES)
Claire McCaskill (R), a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, works the register at a coffee shop during her campaign tour in St. Louis, Missouri November 4, 2006. REUTERS/Tim Parker (UNITED STATES)

The concerns over Evzio's price comes at a time when pharmaceutical companies are facing intense scrutiny over "price-gouging", and as lawmakers struggle with the epidemic of opioid abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least 91 Americans succumb every day to opioid overdose, which experts partly blame on unrestricted painkiller prescriptions.

"At a time when Congress has worked to expand access to naloxone products and to assist state and local communities to equip first responders with this life-saving drug, this startling price hike is very concerning," McCaskill said in a letter to Kaleo Chief Executive Spencer Williamson.

SEE ALSO: Trump promises 'insurance for everybody' with his Obamacare replacement

The letter, which was signed by 30 U.S. senators, asked Kaleo for information on Evzio's price structure and why the company chose to adjust prices.

"We received the letter from the Senators and are in communication with them to ensure all questions are addressed," Williamson told Reuters in an e-mailed statement.

Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar sent Kaleo a letter earlier this month, voicing similar concerns.

Williamson said that Americans with commercial insurance and a prescription could get Evzio, which was approved in 2014, for no out-of-pocket cost, or for $360 if they paid cash.

He added that people without insurance and with household income under $100,000 could get Evzio for no out-of-pocket cost.

Kaleo's other product is Auvi-Q, an emergency allergy auto-injector that is a rival to Mylan NV's EpiPen, which came under intense criticism last year for its high price.

Kaleo said last month that it would offer Auvi-Q at no cost to many consumers, but set a list price – to be used as the benchmark cost to insurance companies – at a whopping $4,500.

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

Read Full Story

From Our Partners