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Price of drug to prevent premature birth rises from $10 to $1,500

For years doctors have prescribed a type of progesterone to pregnant women who were considered to be at high risk for premature delivery. Generally the cost of that medication was about $10 per dose and was made by specialty pharmacies.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has approved a branded version of the prescription known as Makena which the manufacturer will sell for $1,500 per dose. Women treated with the medication need one dose per week meaning that the treatment could cost up to $30,000 per pregnancy.

The obvious question is why a doctor or patient would opt for the $1,500 'Makena' branded dose, when a $10 equivalent is available and has been in use for years. According to a news report from Time, the manufacturer of Makena has warned the specialty pharmacies that they may face actions from the FDA if they continue to sell the non-branded version that they have sold for years.

Many doctors are outraged at the price spike. Dr Sam Kim, a doctor at the University of Kansas expressed his outrage, "This is ridiculous. This medicine has been used for 40 or 50 years." Adding to the issue is that low income women are one of the populations most at risk for premature delivery.

Doctors and pharmacists are exploring alternative means of providing the medication, but those generally require that the treatment be given daily rather than weekly which is generally not feasible for intramuscular injections that need to be administered over the course of numerous months.

Source: Time "Can Patients Get Around the Exorbitant New Cost of a Pregnancy Drug?" Maia Szalavitz , March 10, 2011

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