Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A drug to prevent premature birth priced out of reach for most women?

[Premature birth is a significant risk factor for cerebral palsy and other disabilities]

The Detroit Free Press featured an article on March 21, 2011, (Drug price for a safe pregnancy: $30,000 by DFP medical writer Patricia Anstett) about a drug that has been effective in reducing premature births and has been available for pregnant women since 2003. The cost has been $200 for a regimen of 20 injections.

The Federal Drug Administration has granted final approval for Maken, the brand name of the drug that is now produced exclusively by Ther-Rx, a subsidiary of K-V Pharmaceutical of St. Louis. The drug has been designated an orphan drug (benefitting fewer than 200,000 people) which gives special incentives so that the drug company can make money on it. A regimen of 20 injections will now cost $30,000.

The pharmaceutical company has created a financial aid program to help poor women get the drug for free and others to obtain discounts, but the high price may deter Medicaid from paying for the drug and generally reduce access to the drug by pregnant women who need it.

The Website "A Healthier Michigan", sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, posts an article, Inflated Drug Price Lands Pharma Company in Social Media Crisis, discussing the PR problems the drug company is facing with the launching of a facebook page opposing the exorbitant price increase.

More background on the story is available in an article from the St. Louis Dispatch from March 10, 2011. It turns out the company that has exclusive rights to market the drug did not invent it. The new cost of the drug will make it more expensive to use the drug to prevent premature births than to not treat women and pay the added costs of the premature births that will occur.

Just one more clue as to why health care costs are so high.

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