Keating demands answers on Narcan cost increase

William Keating's concern for overpricing extends beyond one corporation. The Democratic congressman representing Massachusetts' 9th District highlighted the issue, though, with a letter to Kaleo Pharmaceuticals on Thursday.

The subject revolved around the Evzio product, an autoinjector for naxolone (Narcan) which is used to treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. Keating's public criticism focused on the cost of Evzio increasing from $690 to $4,500 in a span of three years — something the congressman said he has seen too often recently.

"We saw it with HIV medicine and EpiPen and now when you see it with this, red flags should go up all over the place," Keating told The Standard-Times on Friday.

Kaleo Pharmaceuticals has an "Access and Affordability" page on its web site. The page reads, "The patient always come first. We believe the most important price is the price to the patient. We believe that patients with life-threatening conditions deserve fair access to the latest medicines that offer technological innovations that address their medical needs."

The company reiterated those claims in a statement to The Standard-Times.

"Our first priority remains ensuring that patients can access Evzio," CEO Spencer Williamson said in a statement. "In fact, with the launch of Kaléo's enhanced patient access program, more Americans are able to obtain this life-saving product for $0 out-of-pocket than any time in history."

Kaleo didn't provide a price for Evzio, but said it can be purchased for $360 when paying cash.

Kaleo also claimed more than 200 million Americans with commericial insurance and a prescription can get Evzio for no cost out-of-pocket. Those without insurance and have a household income less than $100,000 can also receive Ezvio for no cost out-of-pocket.

"We can't have thousands of individual companies dramatically increasing their prices because they're helping some people. That's not the way to approach this," Keating said. "I'm not doubting the fact they want to help people. I'm not doing it at that level. I'm saying there's no justification in that increase."

Both Kaleo and Keating agree on the life-saving ability of Evzio. It's an easily usable device that injects naxolone into one's system and will block the effects of opioids, especially in an overdose.

Municipalities around the country use Evzio but its target audience is private consumers because of its ease of use.

Making Evzio as accessible as possible is of high importance to Keating because he represents four of the top five counties in Massachusetts in terms of opioid deaths per capita.

"I questioned them a couple years ago when it was $500, then it was $4,500, think about that. That's 800 percent increase in three years," Keating said. "As wonderful as some of the other things they're doing, (their response) doesn't answer the question as to why this dramatic increase is necessary. We should all be asking it. I think we see this trend all to often lately."

The increase also comes in an unsettled time for health insurance.

President Donald Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which mandates insurers cover opioid addiction.

"They think by overpricing this, it's clear they are, they can create their own system by helping people by overcharging some people. It's so unsettled they can't make that," Keating said. "The biggest thing that's unsettling it is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act."

Keating received a personal response, which highlighted the same points the company made to The Standard-Times. The writing correspondence will end there as the congressman plans to meet with Kaleo within the next couple of weeks in Washington D.C.

"When you look at their response, they admit, yes we're charging more," Keating said. "They're charging more so they can have more people get it for zero. They're doing that with no transparency whatsoever."

(This article originally appeared in The Standard-Times)