Have You Been Affected By Drug Shortages?

Probing the mystery of drug-supply disruption

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a painful, debilitating disease. But like some of its victims, Fred LeStourgeon was lucky enough to find long-term relief through drug therapy – in his case, with a combination of two widely available generic drugs.

Then something odd happened, and LeStourgeon has been asking questions ever since. Last fall, one of the medications he relied on, leflunomide, nearly vanished from the market – only a much higher-priced brand version, Arava, remained available. And when leflunomide returned, the price had jumped more than tenfold – from about $70 for a three-month supply at his Acme Markets pharmacy to $942.”

Read More: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20111023_Jeff_Gelles__Probing…

Congressman probes drug shortages, price markups

(CNN) — Concerned about the nationwide drug shortage and exorbitant markups, a congressman Wednesday asked five “gray market” companies that buy and sell hard-to-find drugs to provide information on their sales.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a statement that he is looking into the extent at which “middleman companies are making substantial profits by engaging in a form of drug speculation.”

One of the companies allegedly sold a drug used to treat leukemia for more than $990 per vial, more than 80 times a typical contract price of about $12 per vial, according to Cummings.

Read More: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/05/health/drug-prices/

3 Comments
3 comments
  1. RA Guy says:

    Over the past six months, many people have shared stories of how they have been affected by certain drug shortages, such as leflunomide and injectable methotrexate. Some have wondered if companies were profiteering from these shortages. These two news stories seem to indicate that indeed, this may be happening.

  2. Deb aka murphthesurf says:

    This goes to the logic of why we do need control over our medical supply chain (including doctors, etc .) in this country. Supply and demand does not take into account fixing which is profound here in the US. And as fast as one fixing scheme is uncovered, five other pop up. Amazing that humans see fit to use other humans (regardless of the consequences) for profit. It is well past prime time that we pursue criminal charges across the boards here in the US. Of course individuals will continue such criminal activity if there is no fear of jail time.

  3. Joie says:

    Yes, I’ve had trouble getting injectable methotrexate. My mail order pharmacy — one of the biggest pharmacy benefit managers in the US — was out of inj mtx. I called around to local walk-in pharmacies and they were out of inj mtx, but I was directed to a pharmacy near one of the largest retirement communities in my state — they have a big stockpile I guess, cuz I’ve been able to fill my inj mtx script for the last 2 months there, though I’ve read on RA online forums of others not able to find inj mtx at all.

    I had been reading about the drug shortages — especially of sterile, injectables like mtx — which is used to treat cancer patients as well as RA folks. My understanding is one drug maker had a quality problem and had to recall their inj mtx, the remaining mtx makers couldn’t keep up with the demand.

    http://www.ashp.org/drugshortages/current/bulletin.aspx?id=26

    The PBS Newshour had segments about drug shortages and the “gray market” that exploits them.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/08/drug-prices-soar-as-pharmacists-are-forced-into-gray-market.html

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/july-dec11/drugshortage_08-29.html

    Healthbeatblog also has a good article w/links to more discussions of this critical issue.

    http://www.healthbeatblog.com/2011/08/cancer-drug-shortage-why-is-this-not-front-page-news-.html

    The whole issue of drug shortages angers me. Mtx is one of the first drugs prescribed to someone newly diagnosed w/RA. Along w/other DMARDS or prednisone, it can manage RA symptoms and sometimes not require going onto a biologic. Inj mtx costs $20 a month — a biologic — can cost more than $1,500 a month. If the US wants to control rising health care costs, then something needs to be done to ensure that cheap generics remain available.

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