Opioid Giant Purdue Will Fund Nonprofit Overdose-Antidote Maker

(Bloomberg) -- Purdue Pharma LP will donate $3.4 million to a nonprofit firm developing a cheaper opioid-overdose antidote, part of an effort to repair the drugmaker’s image after years of being the face of the U.S.’s prescription pain pill crisis.

Harm Reduction Therapeutics Inc. is developing a version of Narcan, a nasal spray that uses the drug naloxone to quickly reverse overdoses. Purdue’s donation will speed up development of the product by about 12 months, and the nonprofit hopes to launch its drug within two years. Purdue said it won’t receive any revenue or royalties.

After years of aggressively marketing pain pills, Purdue has tried to position itself as an advocate for fighting the opioid addiction crisis while it faces hundreds of lawsuits from state and local governments. It has helped fund distribution of naloxone through a national sheriffs’ association, and has purchased advertising in national news outlets touting its efforts.

Harm Reduction Therapeutics Chief Executive Officer Michael Hufford said the product will cost “a fraction” of the $125 price for a two-pack of Narcan. Narcan is currently sold by Adapt Pharma Inc., which gives some product away, and sells some at a discount. Naloxone is also available as an injection.

“As the opioid epidemic has unfolded the price of naloxone, despite it being a generic drug, has continued to go up,” Hufford said in an interview. “There has to be another way.”

The nonprofit is also petitioning U.S. regulators to have the drug sold over-the-counter at pharmacies, Hufford said. At least 45 states and the District of Columbia already allow the drug to be obtained without a prescription, and moving it out from behind the pharmacy counter could increase access.

Adapt is being acquired by Emergent BioSolutions Inc. in a deal worth as much as $735 million. Kaleo Inc., Mylan NV, Pfizer Inc. and Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. also sell naloxone products.

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