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October 10, 2019

Iowa extends rebate for life-saving opioid antidote 

Agreement with drugmaker provides naloxone rebates to public agencies statewide 

DES MOINES — Fire and police departments and other public agencies can get a break on the cost of a life-saving drug that counteracts opioid overdoses. 

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has reached an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals to extend a rebate on its naloxone injectable product through Oct. 1, 2020. The California-based drug maker provides a $6 rebate per dose to any “public entity” in Iowa, including those at the state, regional, county or city level. 

Naloxone revives a person who is overdosing on heroin or prescription opioids by quickly stopping and reversing the drugs’ effects. 

The Amphastar rebate program, which was launched in October 2017, was set to expire on Oct. 1, 2019. Through June 30, 2019, public entities in Iowa had purchased 1,015 doses through the Amphastar program, receiving $6,090 in rebates. 

 Prices vary by product, but agencies typically pay about $35 to $40 for a dose of naloxone. 

“The use of naloxone has saved many lives in Iowa,” Miller said. “The opioid epidemic has had many costs, and one has been the impact to the budgets of Iowa’s first responders and public health care providers. We’re pleased that this rebate can reduce these costs.”  

Epidemic takes toll 

Nationally, opioids are the single leading cause of accidental death.  In 2017, nearly 68% of the 70,237 drug overdose deaths in this country involved prescription opioids, according to the CDC. 

In Iowa, 2,051 people died of opioid-related deaths from 2000 to 2018, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.  

The rise of use of prescription opioids led many abusers to turn to heroin, fentanyl and other illicit drugs, fueling a five-fold increase in heroin overdoses nationally from 2010 to 2017. Heroin overdose deaths increased in Iowa more than 21-fold from 2002 to 2017, more than the rate nationally, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. 

Use is on a record pace in D.M. 

Demand for naloxone remains high. Through Oct. 1, the Des Moines Fire Department has administered 211 doses of the drug. That’s on track to match the record of 266 doses used in calendar year 2017. In comparison, the department administered 111 doses in calendar year 2014. 

"Naloxone is a life-saving tool for many Iowans who overdose on opioids," said Dale Woolery, director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.  "Thanks to the work of Attorney General Miller, naloxone will continue to be a little more accessible to Iowa's first responders." 

Despite naloxone’s effectiveness, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that that far too little naloxone is being dispensed in many areas of the country that need it the most. The agency recommends that more doctors prescribe the drug to patients who are using high-dose opioids. 

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office urges Iowans at risk to have naloxone on hand. A state law passed in 2016 eased restrictions on naloxone, enabling adults at risk of opioid-related overdose, and their family and friends, to purchase the drug from a pharmacy without a prescription. 

Miller has taken other actions to stem the opioid epidemic. His office has sued Purdue Pharma and its former president and board chairman, Richard Sackler, alleging that the drug company engaged in unfair, deceptive and unlawful practices in the marketing of OxyContin, helping fuel the nation’s opioid crisis. 

To learn more 

Public agencies can find details of the Amphastar agreement and instructions on applying for the rebate at the Iowa Attorney General’s website.  

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