Categorized | USA

Cheap heroin, unaffordable solutions

Cheap heroin, unaffordable solutions

On July 1 I wrote about how the emergency service workers of NYC were all being trained and equipped with an anti-opiate life saving medication known as Naloxone. The medication was a much welcomed and far reaching shift in strategy in how some of the largest cities in the USA were going to start dealing with drug addiction in our communities.

For decades the criminalization of addicts was seen as THE solution (fueled in part by a racist perception of drug users) and the idea that we should treat addiction as as a medical problem (instead of a criminal problem) was either diminished or not present at all in the political conversation. Recently, however, the ever-present capitalist “free market” has reared its ugly head to potentially derail the future of treating drug addiction as a medical problem.

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, a private for profit business, which produces the anti-opiate medication used most widely around the country, has over the last month or so increased the price of Naloxone by up to 50 percent. Local governments, hospitals, public service agencies and most importantly drug addicted individuals are now left with the decision of either coming up with double the amount of money for this life saving medication or to just do without.

Alabama Times Daily reports that State Rep. Allen Treadaway has seen “more than 100 accidental overdoses related to heroin so far this year, a 100 percent increase over last year” in Jefferson County.

“It’s cheap, and it’s widely available,” Treadaway said.

All across the country in cities small and large heroin has exploded in a very nasty way. It is why Naloxone had become so popular in the first place and why local governments viewed the drug as a great investment.

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin is reported as saying that while Naloxone prices are higher than ever heroin is getting cheaper and cheaper with a dose of heroin for the first time being cheaper than over the counter opiates like OxyContin.

“While a prescription painkiller such as OxyContin can cost $25 to $50 per pill on the street; heroin is about $20 per fix.” the Alabama Times Daily explained recently.

In New York City, a spokeswoman for the Health Department said that the more than 50 percent price increase for naloxone has officials “concerned” over the future of its distribution programs. In other words the government is left powerless against the power of a corporation to profit despite the increasing number of deaths from opiate and heroin abuse throughout NYC and the country. In an embarrassing display of powerlessness before the right of a corporation to profit, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman found himself forced to write a “strongly worded letter” to the chief executive of Amphastar, demanding an explanation for what he called an “unacceptable” rise.

“These increases [in price] threaten to curtail access to a drug just when it is needed most,” Mr. Schneiderman wrote to Jack Y. Zhang, the chief executive of Amphastar. “To date, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals has failed to provide any satisfactory explanation for dramatically increasing the price of a critical lifesaving drug.”

Not only is a “strongly worded” letter entirely insufficient to stem a crisis of opiate overdose which requires immediate attention but even this letter itself aims to solicit no more than an “explanation for dramatically increasing the price”. Amphastar has in fact “explained” that its “production costs” have gone up knowing full well that the capitalist legal system is completely on the side of the Amphastar shareholders in its “right” to to profit on the backs of families and whole communities dealing with opiate addiction.

In reality Amphastar is doing what any good business under a capitalist “free market” should do, namely maximize profit where possible. They know the amount of money local governments across the country have spent on training their staff to use their specific product so they saw no risk of losing business when they doubled the price because it would be more expensive for cities like NYC to just scrap the Naloxone program entirely.

The current capitalist pharmaceutical industry does nothing but prey on the sick by profiting on our misery while at the same time continually placing barriers on effective treatments and cures for disease. For real doctors and health practitioners of the people the only way we can have humane and productive healthcare is to take the profit out of the system. In other words the only option is socialism.


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