making money off of misery, or the skyrocketing price of fun drugs for pregnant women

I am so angry I am probably being too public right now. I’m certainly emotional and possibly unclear. Oh well. We need faces for this cause.

It seems that the shots I had during my pregnancy with Samuel, synthetic progesterone to prevent preterm labor, are going to increase in price from less than $20.00 per shot to about $1,500.00 per shot. How terrible does that sound? Well it’s even worse when you consider that a pregnant woman needs the shot 18 to 20 times, from week 16 to week 34 (or 36). So instead of about $360ish dollars to prevent preterm labor, it will now cost about $30,000.

In the interest of full disclosure, actually, I think my shots were $90 a pop, because the insurance company demanded an office visit for each, so I cost about $2,100. Something like $75 for the visit, $15 for the drug. If the shots had cost $31,800, that’d have been a lot of their money not going elsewhere. Someone’s prices somewhere would have gone up.

A subsidiary of a St. Louis company, KV Pharmaceuticals, has gotten exclusive permission from the FDA to make and market the drug for the next seven years. The drug, though, has been around for years. I know there are benefits to FDA regulation. I know research and controls are good things. I’m a liberal, damn it. This decision abuses the system, and makes a mockery of government and medical integrity.

Here’s a source: The Wall Street Journal. And another one: NPR. And wow, lookie here: Fox.

Would I have given $30,000 to keep Natan alive? Certainly. Although I’d have had to max out a credit card or two. Or maybe rob a bank, or I don’t know, a pharmaceuticals executive to do so. Would Samuel have been worth that expense? Yes, obviously. But it’s not necessary. Clearly, I had and have insurance. I don’t know what present insurance company would do. Is it right to gouge those companies’ funds in this way? No. Not that my insurance company is an epitome of fair and ethical behavior either, but it does cover a lot of suffering people. I’m pretty sure that $30,000 could help a lot of cancer patients, buy a lot of Viagra, and ease the suffering of many asthmatic children. It could also help save a whole lot of unborn babies.

A lot of families will spend that money to save their children. A lot of families will simply not have another child. Probably, some families will pray that their first bout of preterm labor was a fluke, and more babies will die. Of these things I am sure.

I didn’t do a whole lot of cost-benefit analysis in my pregnancies. I didn’t even ask what it would cost (we had phenomenal insurance). But then, Samuel’s life would have won the debate anyway.

If our insurance company hadn’t paid, well, we’d be looking at an even longer time until we’re out of debt and in a house we own. I’m just glad we don’t have debtors’ prisons. Bankruptcy upsets me less than dead babies.

So the drug company’s justification is that babies born preterm spend a lot of time in the NICU and cost a lot of money. Yes, they do. I have additional reasons for not wanting children and families to spend a lot of time in the NICU. So their claim is that this change will save money. Guess what? It would save even more money to charge a fair price for this drug.

Not to mention, as we often forget, babies born preterm also die. I also like when families don’t spend time in graveyards at tiny plots. Graves for infants, by the way, often come free, but the gravestones cost extra.

A week ago tomorrow morning, I sat in the office of an OB/GYN. I am not pregnant, and have no plans to become so. But I thought, we’ve moved to a new place. These are new doctors, and if we decide to try again, I’d like a relationship and a plan in place well beforehand. I told a very compassionate and supportive doctor my story. Labor with Natan at 24 weeks. The days and days and days in the hospital, on my left side, flat or even tilted a bit backwards. Tremendous physical pain. Indocin. My crashing blood pressure. Birth. Death.

Then my pregnancy with Samuel. A cerclage at 14 weeks, progesterone shots beginning at 16 weeks. We made it to term. This blog details the misery of that second pregnancy, the fear and stress. I did not go into preterm labor, and it was actually a healthy pregnancy. The cerclage was very much prophylactic. My records don’t read like I had an incompetent cervix. I believe it was the progesterone shots that got Samuel to term. So does every doctor who has read or heard my history.

He said if I became pregnant again, we would do the exact same thing we’d done when I was pregnant with Samuel. I left happy.

I can practically see the dollar signs in pharmaceutical executives’ eyes and hear the ch’ching of their cash registers now. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, KV Pharmaceuticals chief executive, Mr. Divis. Or rather, don’t plunder mine.

[I have written to my wonderful Mississippi senators and representatives for help. I’m not holding my breath.]

Oops, I forgot to thank my friend Tash for bringing this to my attention.

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2 responses to “making money off of misery, or the skyrocketing price of fun drugs for pregnant women

  1. I’m with you, I’d obviously pay whatever and go into bankruptcy. But a lot of people don’t have that option — there is no credit card or safety net. And putting that aside for the moment, take us — privately insured because we’re self-employed and our insurance doesn’t cover pregnancy. (This is the case with most self-employed/private insurance policies.) We’re very blessed that we could max out a credit card or five and make this happen. But why on earth should we? All we’re doing is paying for someone’s golf vacation. It’s like they ran around and tried to figure out what part of the market they could co-opt with very little time/$ on their part and reap a fortune and they found it, and it’s grieving/hard-hit moms. Is someone going to come along and corner the market on iron? I don’t know how these people sleep at night. I have half a mind now to contact my congressperson and tell him and maybe pressure the FDA into rethinking this.

    Thanks for the personal insight. This particular issue doesn’t effect me, but the outcome certainly does.

  2. Blessed that I can max out a credit card. You are correct. As sad as that is, it’s not the saddest option.

    I did contact all my congress people. I wonder if I’ll hear back.

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