Sanders, Cummings Urge Mayors and County Officials to Combat Overcharging for Critical Drug

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2015  – Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties urging their members to follow the lead of New York and other states that are demanding affordable prices for a critical drug used by first responders nationwide. 

“Since city and county officials are on the front lines of our country’s opioid epidemic—and since they are often the primary purchasers of naloxone—we encourage your members to make this issue a priority and urge your elected officials to negotiate agreements with Amphastar to reduce the price of this lifesaving drug,” Cummings and Sanders wrote.

In January, after months of negotiation, New York’s attorney general announced an agreement with Amphastar for the company to provide rebates of $6 per dose of naloxone to state agencies. 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.

These actions follow reports that “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.” 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.

“The opioid abuse epidemic in our country is a public health emergency that must be addressed, and no company should jeopardize the progress being made in tackling this emergency by overcharging for a critically important drug like naloxone,” the members wrote.

Earlier this month, Cummings sent a letter to the Maryland Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Attorney General highlighting concerns specific to his state.  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford have described opioid abuse as a “public health emergency.”  In response to Cummings's letter, the Maryland Attorney General announced last week that he was taking steps to combat overcharging for naloxone.

Since last fall, Cummings and Sanders have been investigating the increasingly high prices being charged for naloxone.  On July 13, Cummings and Sanders sent a letter urging the National Governors Association, the National Association of Lieutenant Governors and the National Association of Attorneys General to encourage their members to take action to combat overcharging for naloxone. 

Read a copy of the letter here.