How much would you pay for a safe pregnancy?

Thanks to modern medicine and a certain miracle drug for high-risk pregnancies, millions of babies who would have died at or before birth are able to live healthy lives.

Thanks to capitalism and the pharmaceutical industry, this week the price of that miracle drug went from $10 to $20 per injection to $1,500 per dose.

The free marketplace at its finest? Or preying on pregnant women?

The drug is a form of the hormone progesterone, and it's been prescribed for decades as a weekly injection to help prevent premature births. Until now, it was made in special compounding pharmacies and, though perfectly safe, was not federally approved, so the amount of hormone in each shot could vary from pharmacy to pharmacy.

KV Pharmaceutical of Bridgeton, Missouri, won government approval to exclusively sell the drug, which they're calling Makena. Since some women need as many as 20 doses during their pregnancies, treatment with Makena could cost as much as $30,000, instead of the $200 to $400 it does now. KV Pharmaceutical chief executive Gregory J. Divis Jr. told The Associated Press that the massive price hike was justified because caring for a preemie is so expensive-about $51,000 in the first year alone.

"Makena can help offset some of those costs," Divis said. "These moms deserve the opportunity to have the benefits of an FDA-approved Makena."

Doctors, however, point out that moms (and their babies) were getting pretty much the same benefit for about 1/100th of the new price and, since the drug had been in use for decades and most of the research for it was funded by other people, Makena cost KV Pharmaceutical very little to develop.

"That's a huge increase for something that can't be costing them that much to make." Dr. Roger Snow, deputy medical director for Massachusetts' Medicaid program, told the AP. "For crying out loud, this is about making money."

"This is ridiculous. This medicine has been used for 40 or 50 years," Dr. Sam Kim, division director for reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Kansas Hospital, told Time magazine.

Some health insurance companies will be picking up the suddenly enormous tab for their members, which could lead to higher premiums for everyone. But since low-income women are at highest risk for premature births, the burden of paying for Makena could fall to Medicaid, which is already facing cutbacks in many states and could be forced to stop paying for the drug or enroll fewer people. "There's no question they can't afford this," said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, told AP.

Getting the drug elsewhere may not be an option. KV Pharmaceutical has exclusive rights to the drug for the next seven years, and recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to compounding pharmacies, warning them to stop making the drug.

KV Pharmaceutical announced that it would offer a patient financial assistant program to reduce or eliminate the out-of-pocket costs of Makena for some insured and uninsured patients. But even then, the co-pay could cost more than each dose of the generic, compounded drug used to. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has asked the pharmaceutical company to "immediately reconsider" its pricing.

"Not only will this price hike be overly burdensome... it will invariably result in reduced access and, as a result, more premature births," Brown wrote in the letter. "I am deeply concerned that your company appears to be taking advantage of FDA approval at the expense of women, children and federal and state budgets."

What do you think? Is it right to make such a massive profit on something so many women have to buy in order not to lose their babies?

How much would you pay to have a healthy pregnancy?





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