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Treatment of Overdose Will Cost Cities Less


The Clinton Foundation on Monday announced that it had negotiated a lower price for an emergency treatment that can prevent overdoses with a company that makes it. The soaring cost of the treatment has constrained its widespread use by municipalities across the country.


Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of prescription painkiller or heroin overdoses. Doctors and paramedics give it to people who have stopped breathing or lost consciousness. In the past it was used mostly in medical settings like hospitals, but in recent years its use has spread to homes or on the streets, where overdoses commonly occur, a trend experts say can improve the chances of saving a person’s life.

But as the medication’s use has risen, its price has surged in many towns and cities over the past year. Local law enforcement and health authorities say they are struggling to keep the lifesaving drug available to those who need it.

The Clinton Health Matters Initiative, which is part of the Clinton Foundation, founded by former President Bill Clinton, said it had negotiated a stable, low price for a device called Evzio, a hand-held auto-injectorsimilar to an EpiPen that delivers a single dose of naloxone.

Rain Henderson, the chief executive of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, declined to disclose the price, but said it was close to what the federal government pays for the product. The government, a large purchaser, has the bargaining power to get a lower price. Until now, Ms. Henderson said, municipalities and other entities were forced to negotiate individually.

“These are lifesaving devices, like defibrillators,” she said, referring to the devices used to jolt a failing heart back into its regular rhythm. “They should be available to everyone, but that’s not happening because of the cost.”

The new price will be available to any institution that can distribute the medication more broadly, such as a police department or a university, she said. The Foundation approached other companies, but Kaléo, the firm that makes the auto-injectors, was the first to reach an agreement with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative.

Daniel Raymond, policy director for the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national group focused on drug use, said the auto-injector devices were not in broad use across the country, in part because they tended to be substantially more expensive than other methods of administering Naloxone, including as a nasal spray or regular injection. He said the agreement announced Monday could prompt more local health departments to consider using the auto-injectors.

In Baltimore, city health authorities have been giving out naloxone kits to friends and relatives of residents who might need them, but they said the price had doubled over the past year. As a result, the city is giving out 2,000 kits, instead of the 3,600 it could have distributed had the price stayed stable.

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner, said that she did not know how the new devices would compare in cost with the kits the city now buys for $95 each, which include a nasal spray, but that she was actively looking for cheaper alternatives.