Why the High Cost of Treating Opioid Addiction with Suboxone?
Suboxone, the trade name for Buprenorphine and Naloxone, is used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Patents on Suboxone expired long ago yet it costs $500 for a 30-day supply. This puts the drug out of reach for so many people. Why the high cost? The cost is so high because there is no generic competition. The makers of this drug have a captive market with no competition therefore they can charge whatever they want. Keeping prices high while effectively barring any other pharmaceutical company from producing a generic option degrades the overall effort to reduce our current opioid epidemic. The maker of Suboxone have been effective at stalling any competition.
A recent Salon report noted, “However, open and vigorous competition is certainly not what the manufacturer behind the addiction treatment drug Suboxone had in mind when it combined several games to fight off generics appearing on the horizon. These games included product hopping (shifting the market to a new form of the drug just as the exclusivity expires so pharmacists cannot fill the prescription with a generic), refusing to cooperate with generic companies on safety plans, and petitioning the FDA to impose safety measures on generic versions that were never required for the brand-name version.”
While they work hard to make sure they have a captive consumer market without any competition, which means many addicts cannot afford treatment and are left without.
Our Opioid Overdose Epidemic
According to the CDC, the percentage of people in the U.S. dying of drug overdoses has effectively risen four-fold since 1999, and drug overdoses now rank as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. We have never seen the level of opioid addiction and overdoses that we see now. Drugs like Suboxone are needed to help treat opioid and opiate addiction, yet the high price for the drug keeps it out of reach for so many who need it badly.
How We Can Better Address The Opioid Addiction Epidemic
While no one will argue pharmaceutical companies have the right to make a profit, the underhanded attempts to fend off competition must be confronted and these companies held accountable for practices that subvert competition. The FDA must remember it exists to protect the consumer and not the profits and monopolies of pharmaceutical companies. These companies can play an important role in reducing both addiction and overdoses, or they can continue to charge outrageous prices while keeping any competition at bay.