There is a new product out called Makena (Ma – Kee – na) which prevents pre-term labor in women who are prone to premature birth. The drug is a form of progesterone, and, for years, has been available to doctors from special compounding pharmacies at a patient cost of $10. to $20. a shot. And it has been pretty effective.
But things can change… and sometimes the change is devastating.
After years of exploration, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in association with The March Of Dimes carried out their program of tests and finally issued their support for the drug. Since it is FDA approved, the drug could be signed to a major manufacturer, in this case KV Pharmaceutical of suburban St.Louis, who won government approval to exclusively sell the drug. That means compounding pharmacists can no longer make Makena (or any similar progesterone) for doctors. So what is wrong with that?
KY has increased the cost per required weekly injection from $10. to $1500.
Nope. That wasn’t a typo. KY has increased the price 150 times, causing a rage among both doctors and patients. Dr. Roger Snow, deputy medical director for Massachusetts’ Medicaid program commented on the price change:
“That’s a huge increase for something that can’t be costing them that much to make. For crying out loud, this is about making money.”
NPR has cited some other doctors at major organizations:
“I’ve never seen anything as outrageous as this,” said Dr. Arnold Cohen, an obstetrician at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
“I’m breathless,” said Dr. Joanne Armstrong, the head of women’s health for Aetna, the Hartford-based national health insurer.
The thing that concerns doctors the most is that the cost is going to prevent middle and lower-class women from taking Makena, causing an increase in premature births which the standard progesterone compounds have caused to go down.
KY says the cost is justified to avoid mental and physical problems that come with premature births…a premie can add $51,000 in unexpected medical costs to new parents. This is according to KV Pharmaceutical chief executive Gregory J. Divis Jr.:
“Makena can help offset some of those costs. These moms deserve the opportunity to have the benefits of an FDA-approved Makena.”
The FDA plays no part in setting the price for any drug. KY has hired a marketing company to promote it and is supposedly setting up a patient assistance program to help uninsured and low income women. But “uninsured” is the point. Currently insured women will be hit with the $1500 price – which could easily be disapproved by their insurance companies… or else cause the price of insurance premiums to go way up.
In other words, an organization that gets our tax money, the FDA, and a non-profit that we give donations to (and have since we were children in school), The March Of Dimes) have paid to develop a product that has been given to a Corporation, KY, whose major interest is profits over people.
If this doesn’t make us reject the idea of corporate control of things the government should protect citizens against, I don’t know what will.