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Home » Archives » March 2011 » Foolish doctors

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03/15/2011: "Foolish doctors"

In the CTV article "Drug to prevent preterm birth goes from $10 to $1,500" (Associated press), the authors write:

The price of preventing preterm labour is about to go through the roof.

A drug for high-risk pregnant women has cost about $10 to $20 per injection. Next week, the price shoots up to $1,500 a dose, meaning the total cost during a pregnancy could be as much as $30,000.

That's because the drug, a form of progesterone given as a weekly shot, has been made cheaply for years, mixed in special pharmacies that custom-compound treatments that are not federally approved.

But recently, KV Pharmaceutical of suburban St. Louis won government approval to exclusively sell the drug, known as Makena. The March of Dimes and many obstetricians supported that because it means quality will be more consistent and it will be easier to get.

None of them anticipated the dramatic price hike, though -- especially since most of the cost for development and research was shouldered by others in the past.

What exactly did you expect? You lobbied the government to grant the company a complete monopoly on selling this drug, and they reacted to maximize their profit.

What incentive do they have to keep the price low? After all they're apparently "spending hundreds of millions of dollars in additional research".

Ostensibly this is all required to deal with quality control problems. However, "Aetna's Armstrong said she was unaware of any quality concerns."

Not that they have a choice: Last month, KV sent cease-and-desist letters to compounding pharmacies, telling them they could face FDA enforcement actions if they kept making the drug.

In an ironic coincidence, the previous day CTV also noted that "MPs pass generic drug bill after push from K'naan"

The changes would permit generic drug makers to manufacture patent-protected medications and ship them to specific developing countries. The generic manufacturers would also not be required to obtain a permit each time they wished to produce and ship a drug.

The drugs affected are those used to treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, among other illnesses. The bill could help millions of people in Africa who can't afford life-saving medications.

Too bad they couldn't apply the same logic to millions of people in North America that would have their lives improved with some of the same and other life-saving medications. If Makena referenced above was kept as a generic, how many more of the estimated 130,000 women would get it that won't now.

In other words, how many babies did this federally approved monopoly kill or maim?

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