As need grows for painkiller overdose treatment, companies raise prices

Submission Date: July 17, 2016
Attributing Author: Melody Peterson
Source: LA Times

Aimee Dunkle of Rancho Santa Margarita holds a portrait of her son Ben, who died from a drug overdose four years ago. Dunkle has distributed hundreds of doses of naloxone, a drug that she believes would have saved her son. (Los Angeles Times)

Aimee Dunkle began helping to distribute the drug naloxone — the life-saving antidote to prescription painkiller overdoses — after her son died. Ben Dunkle, 20, was with three people when he overdosed in 2012, she said. She believes he would be alive today if they had naloxone.

“They panicked,” Dunkle said, “and dumped him in a parking lot.”

Naloxone works by blocking the effect that painkillers and heroin have in the brain and reversing the slowed breathing and unconsciousness that come with an overdose.

The Solace Foundation in Orange County, the group that Dunkle co-founded, says the drug has been used since February to reverse 128 overdoses that otherwise probably would have been fatal.

But as the demand for naloxone has risen — overdose deaths now total 130 every day, or roughly the capacity of a Boeing 737 — the drug’s price has soared.

Not long ago, a dose of the decades-old generic drug cost little more than a dollar. Now the lowest available price is nearly 20 times that.

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