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Cummings Urges Maryland Officials to Combat Overcharging for Critical Drug Used by First Responders

Jul 7, 2015
Press Release

Cummings Urges Maryland Officials to Combat Overcharging for Critical Drug Used by First Responders

 

Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2015)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter urging the Maryland Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General to take aggressive action to negotiate an agreement with a company that has been charging exorbitant prices for a critical drug used to treat overdoses.

“I believe the State of Maryland is being overcharged for a critical drug called naloxone that is used by first responders and medical personnel to reverse the life-threatening effects of heroin and other opioid overdoses, and I urge you to make sure that the company charging these prices is not allowed to continue taking advantage of the citizens of Maryland,” Cummings wrote. “Governors and Attorneys General in other states, including New York, have taken aggressive action to reduce the amounts paid to this company, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, and I encourage you to do the same.”

According to press reports, “police and public health officials from New York to San Francisco are facing sticker shock:  Prices for a popular form of the medication, naloxone, are spiking, in some cases by 50 percent or more.”  In Maryland, the price of naloxone reportedly increased by a staggering 111% in eight months, rising from $19 per dose to $41 per dose.

Some have suggested that these price spikes coincide with an increasing number of large city police departments deciding to supply their officers with the drug.  Chuck Wexler, the Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum, stated:  “It’s not an incremental increase. ... There’s clearly something going on.”

In today’s letter, Cummings highlighted the number of heroin and other opioid overdoses in Maryland. According to the Maryland Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, between  2010 and 2013, the fatal heroin overdose rate in Maryland increased by 95%, and the number of heroin-related emergency room visits has more than tripled since 2010.  In 2014 alone, 578 people died of heroin overdoses in Maryland, 192 of which occurred in Baltimore City.  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford have described opioid abuse as a “public health emergency.” 

In January, after months of negotiation, the Attorney General of New York announced an agreement with Amphastar to provide rebates of $6 per dose of naloxone paid for directly, or reimbursed by, public agencies within the state.  The agreement also requires Amphastar to increase these rebates to match—dollar-for-dollar—any future price increases.  In March, the Attorney General of Ohio announced a similar agreement with the company.

“Maryland should not let Amphastar jeopardize the positive steps the State has already taken by overcharging for this critical drug,” Cummings wrote.  “I encourage you to take the same aggressive action as other states to negotiate an agreement with this company and then use these savings to make naloxone more widely available.”

Cummings has been investigating recent price increases for naloxone, as well as other drugs used to treat everything from common medical conditions to life-threatening illnesses, and to identify measures to help reduce costs for patients, healthcare providers, and hospitals across the country.

Click here to read today’s letter to officials from the State of Maryland.

Click here to read a letter in support from Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. 

114th Congress