More New Yorkers will now be able to access a life-saving medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
Heroin deaths doubled in New York City from 2010 to 2013, according to the city health department. Bronx residents had the highest rate of opioid deaths in 2013, at 8.8 per 100,000, and Staten Island had the second-highest at 8.6 per 100,000.
Advocates and public health officials were concerned when Amphastar Pharmaceuticals -- the only company that manufactures naloxone in a nasal spray form, and is used by health practitioners, police officers and trained civilians -- abruptly raised the price of the drug in 2014.
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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday he had reached a deal with the manufacturer to reduce the price and cap it for a year.
A spokeswoman from the attorney general’s office said kits cost about $13 in New York in early 2014 before the price jumped up to $33.
“Amphastar basically doubled the price across the country,” said Matt Curtis, a policy director at VOCAL-NY. “Here in New York it is somewhat of a less critical issue because it has strong support from city government, but in most of the rest of the country there is no public financing.”
“The consequence is if there is less access, more people will die (from overdoses),” Curtis said.
Curtis said the “downside” is the deal is only for a year, the price is still about 50 percent higher, and the manufacturer doesn’t have any other similar agreements in the U.S.
“We were aware of the costs going up by manufacturer … and the impact on our budget,” said Dr. Hillary Kunins, assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Kunins said she was “excited” to hear about the agreement and extended her thanks to the attorney general’s office.
“That means more kits,” said Kunins, adding the agency could save an estimated $100,000 in the price cut.
The health department credits a 32 percent drop in opioid deaths on Staten Island in 2011 to the use of naloxone as well as syringe and educational programs.
Last spring, the NYPD began training officers on how to use naloxone, and outfitting officers with kits. Eventually, 19,500 officers will carry the kits.
In less than a year, the attorney general’s office has given $1.8 million to state police departments for naloxone kit reimbursements.
Schneiderman’s deal with Amphastar cuts the wholesale price by 20 percent, and includes a $6 rebate per dose. The lower cost is available to other state agencies, including the city and state health departments.