In a letter signed by 30 U.S. senators, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) asked Kaleo Pharmaceutical to explain the 550% price hike for its Evzio opioid overdose device. The company’s product, which Kaleo sold for $690 in 2014, is priced at $4,500.
Evzio is a naloxone auto-injector designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It can be used in emergencies by people without formal medical training. At least 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“At a time when Congress has worked to expand access to naloxone products and to assist state and local communities to equip first responders with this life-saving drug, this startling price hike is very concerning,” McCaskill wrote.
Kaleo CEO Spencer Williamson told Reuters that it received the letter and is working with the senators to answer their questions. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also sent a letter to Kaleo earlier this month, asking the company to justify its price increases.
Americans with commercial insurance and a prescription can get Evzio for no out-of-pocket cost, Williamson reportedly told the news outlet, or for $360 if they pay cash. He also pointed out that people with a household income under $100,000 and no insurance can get the device for no out-of-pocket cost.
The senators asked that Kaleo reveal its pricing strategy and explain why the company increased the product’s list price.
McCaskill’s letter comes as pharmaceutical companies are facing pressure from lawmakers over price hikes. The industry’s pricing problems were highlighted in 2015 when Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its malaria drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill. This year, Mylan (NSDQ:MYL) has been the poster-child for industry greed for many politicians, after reports showed that the company raised the price of its EpiPen device 500% since it acquired the product in 2007.
Although congressional committees have issued more than a dozen subpoenas to drug-makers for alleged price-hiking in the last 2 years, a review from the Associated Press found that pressure from Washington has done little to rein in drug prices.
The wire service’s examination of the list prices of 30 brand-name and generic medications showed that most have not budged after enduring federal scrutiny. While list prices for 5 of the drugs fell, prices for 2 of actually increased. More frequently, pressure from Congress did nothing to change the list price.