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US senators question Pfizer pricing of opioid overdose drug

The U.S. Senate Aging Committee asked Pfizer Inc. to explain the price increase of naloxone, a generic drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, CNBC reported.

In a Nov. 28 letter to Pfizer CEO Ian Read, Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., asked the drugmaker for a detailed explanation on the number and amount of price increases for naloxone taken by its Hospira unit between 2009 and 2014. The senators also sought details on Hospira's decision to raise the price, how much the price increases contributed to the improvement of the product, and whether patient access suffered.

The price of a set of 10 vials of the drug soared almost 600% to about $264 in early 2014 from $45 in 2009 before settling at approximately $190, according to the report.

Pfizer defended the pricing of the drug as reasonable, highlighting that the company also donated up to 1 million doses of naloxone through its access program and $1 million in opioid overdose grants in several states.

Pfizer acquired naloxone through its purchase of Hospira in 2015.

The pharmaceutical giant is not the only manufacturer of naloxone. Other formulations and delivery systems are available on the market, including an auto injector which costs about $4,000 for two doses, made by private manufacturer Kaleo.