Phamaceutical monopoly leads to progesterone shots going from $10 to $1500 a shot

14 Mar

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WomensHealth/price-preventing-premature-births-skyrockets-drug/story?id=13104588&page=1

Apparently the company that now owns the sole rights to produce progesterone shots, which were previously available for about $10 for each dosage from a compounding pharmacy (think hand-made generics), has decided to use its new-found monopoly to set a price of $1500 for the shots, to be marketed as “Makena”.  Apparently, this could mean that progesterone treatment to prevent premature labor could cost around $30000.

Really?  I understand that it costs a lot to continually test drugs for safety and to market drugs to doctors and consumers, but this? This just seems GREEDY.  It sounds like they didn’t seek FDA approval to be the sole producer because they were truly concerned about quality, but because they saw an easily exploited niche.  And the sick part is that pharmaceutical company is going to offer a “discount” program to families who make less than $100,000 a year, basically using their position of power to make themselves look like benevolent gods.  I don’t see why they couldn’t at least find a middle ground of price, like even $100.  (God, now that I’ve written that I can’t help but wonder if that’s actually what they expect to charge and the $1500 price tag is just a sick way of bargaining with the public mind…)

I haven’t done any research on this, nor have I received progesterone therapy, so I don’t know about how progesterone treatment works or if there are reasonable alternatives out there that help prevent pre-term labor.  I don’t know how much progesterone cost before the previous FDA-approved maker dropped it (presumably because they were not selling it at high mark-up and were unable turn a profit).  I won’t pretend I know all the facts about the news story.  I just know that this really sounds bad and smacks of a precedent that is only cost medical consumers (that’s you! and me! and even the a-holes who work for pharmaceutical companies!) a lot more going forward.

EDIT 4/3/2011 – I get a lot of hits on this story and just wanted to point out that Nicolas Fogelson at the Academic OB/GYN has been talking about not prescribing Makena to his patients and advocating a boycott.

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3 Responses to “Phamaceutical monopoly leads to progesterone shots going from $10 to $1500 a shot”

  1. Nicholas Fogelson April 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Thanks for the shout out! Makena is the FDA branded version of 17-OHP, which has been available for about $10 a shot for many years. Makena was originally priced at $1500 a shot, and now under pressure they have dropped it to $690 a shot. Still not a good deal given that compounded 17-OHP has been used safely for almost a decade for this indication, and for almost 50 years for other indications.

    The use of 17-OHP for preterm labor is based on a 2003 NIH study that showed a substantial reduction in recurrent preterm birth in 17-OHP users. The effect was substantial, but there were some anomalies in the results that make some suspect that the study may have been flawed, either systematically or just due to mathematically bad luck.

    • andapinchofsalt April 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

      Thanks for noticing me!

      I was starting to feel really horrid that I kept getting search hits for this very non-helpful blog post so I’m so glad that I could point readers in a better direction.

      I really loved your videos on delayed cord clamping – as a lay-person I found that they were very easy to follow and I always appreciate when I find resources that can speak to me and my doctor.

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