Preventing Premature Births, How Much Should It Cost?
It cost $30 a month when local pharmacies made it as a gel – and it worked, for the last 8 years. It’s a treatment that helps women carry high-risk pregnancies to term. Now that K-V Pharmaceuticals has gotten it approved as an injectable drug by the FDA and patented it, they want to charge $1,500 per dose, or $6,000 per month. They say that’s ok because a typical 20 week course of Makena, the drug in question, would cost $30,000, while a premature baby would cost on average about $51,000 in the first year, and since after outcries they dropped their price to about $15,000 per 20-week course, that’s a big savings, assuming it works. They also claim government rebates and financial assistance to the needy will help those who can’t afford it get treatment (for something that was already available at a very reasonable price).
They’ve warned pharmacies they would face FDA enforcement if they continued to compound the drug – after pressure from professional medical societies and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the FDA stated it would not attempt to prosecute pharmacies unless there were safety concerns.
Naturally, the company invested money in the product in order to gain FDA approval – nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, according to an email statement to NPR. But according to Senator Brown, they could make billions of dollars in a single year off of their drug if they would price it similarly to the original generic drug, more than enough to pay for their investment and profit from the drug. And George Saade, president of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, says that there is no measurable medical difference in the medications, only possible logistical benefits in having a product made by a company available everywhere, instead of compounded locally.
In Cutting Budgets, Who Feels the Cuts First?
The mentally ill are both men and women, and according to some statistics, women make up as many as 80% of the workers in health care. So when I heard a story about the cuts in states’ budgets that cause state psychiatric hospitals to be closed, which causes the mentally ill who go to hospitals to be kept in the ER for sometimes days waiting on a bed in a psychiatric hospital – it is troubling.
I once considered going to an ER and voluntarily committing myself for the 72 hour cooldown period. I was conscious enough to know which hospital had a psychiatric ward and to know I would rather spend some time in a less clinical facility. I received a reduced rate at the facility I chose, because they received state funding. Maybe those things would be different now. I would have left if I had had to pay for it all out of pocket – I didn’t have it. And if I had been turned away, sent to the emergency room, I don’t know how that would have affected my eventual recovery, into a stable life today. Years later I count that weekend as a turning point for me.
One ER doctor in the report I heard asked, if this was pneumonia, would we be okay with making them wait 30, 40, 60 hours to get a bed? To get adequate treatment? If we say we treat mental illness with parity, how do we explain this?