WASHINGTON — Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is asking the maker of a heroin overdose drug to lower its prices for government agencies, a copy of a letter made public on Thursday shows.
Frosh, a Democrat, is calling for an agreement similar to those made in New York and Ohio this year, in which California-based Amphastar Pharmaceuticals provides a rebate to public agencies that purchase naloxone, which is used to save the lives of people who have overdosed on heroin.
Led by Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a host of local and federal officials have raised concerns about a spike in the price of the drug that has occurred at the same time public health officials are responding to an increase in deaths from heroin.
"I understand the economic imperatives that enter into any pricing decision, but for any responsible corporate citizen, the health of Maryland communities and the lives of hundreds of patients must be paramount," Frosh wrote.
State officials estimate that deaths from heroin and related drugs increased by 95 percent from 2010 to 2013. Of 578 deaths reported in Maryland in 2014, 192 of them were in Baltimore.
Cummings, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, praised Frosh's letter, arguing it would "have the direct effect of saving lives in the State of Maryland." He also pressured Amphastar officials to lower prices on their own.
"I call on Amphastar to act now to lower its prices in every state -- not just in those that force extended negotiations with the company," Cummings said in a statement.
Baltimore officials told the Sun this month that the 10-dose cost of the drug increased from $97 to $370 this year.