In 2016, more than 20,000 Americans died after overdosing on the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency and, you know, pretty much called it a day. Trump has continued the Obama-era funding to grant states extra funding to pay for opioid overdose treatment. But that's pretty much been his only concrete policy to combat the opioid epidemic.
Well today, activists and health officials sent a potential solution (or at least a way to help prevent overdose-related deaths) to presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, who was put in charge of handling the public health crisis.
The Baltimore City Health Department, along with the activist group Public Citizen, urged the Trump administration to drive down the cost of a critical medication by exercising its legal right to override a pharmaceutical company’s patent.
Specifically: they want the federal government to release a generic form of naloxone, a drug that can counteract the effects of opioids like heroin and Fentanyl, resuscitating people who have overdosed.
Naloxone, which is sold under the name Narcan by Adapt Pharma Inc. and also as Evzio by Kaleo Inc, is protected by several dozens patents that won’t expire until 2035, according to Bloomberg. So pharmaceutical companies can (and do) sell the drug at a higher price than what many individuals and first responders can afford.
Unlike Trump’s other proposed "solutions" for widespread opioid addiction, such as his border wall and higher mandatory minimum sentences (plus the death penalty option) for drug dealers, this patent override is actually based on evidence and historical precedent.
In 2001, a simpler time when anthrax attacks were a thing, George W. Bush’s administration threatened to override the patents on the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, which was the best anthrax treatment. So its manufacturer, Bayer, cut the price of the drug in half.
Other patient rights advocates have urged Trump's administration to override naloxone patents. But because there has been no meaningful action to help those at risk of an opioid overdose, and deaths from opioid overdose are still rising, people continue to push the issue.
To protect addicts still at risk of overdose, advocates will hope and demand that the federal government make smart moves to get people the help they need.