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drugs and money
© Dana Rothstein/Dreamstime.com

KV Pharmaceutical is behaving as pharma does in the wake of winning approval from the government to exclusively sell Makena, a form of progesterone used in high-risk pregnancies to prevent premature birth. They're raising the price of a single injection from $10 to $1,500.

Doctors say the price hike may deter low-income women from getting the drug, leading to more premature births. And it will certainly be a huge financial burden for health insurance companies and government programs that have been paying for it.

The cost is justified to avoid the mental and physical disabilities that can come with very premature births, said KV Pharmaceutical chief executive Gregory J. Divis Jr. The cost of care for a preemie is estimated at $51,000 in the first year alone.

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

That sounds just a little like extortion—pay the $1,500 per injection (they're required weekly for as much as 20 weeks) or experience the "mental and physical disabilities that can come with very premature births." These moms include a higher percentage of African-American women, as well as low-income women receiving Medicaid. But those with private insurance don't have any guarantees that the treatments will continue to be covered at the new, insane rate.

And there's more. ThinkProgress reports that the company is "seeking to prevent other pharmaceutical companies from producing a cheaper version. Last month, KV sent out a letter to compounding pharmacies to cease and desist from producing the drug."

TP also reports that the move hasn't gone totally unnoticed by government.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to KV Pharmaceuticals Thursday demanding they “immediately reconsider the massive price increase.” Noting that African-American women have a higher percentage of premature births, and that fewer women will be able to afford the drug, Brown said he is “gravely concerned” that premature birth rates will increase nationwide. “[H]ealth insurance companies could either stop coverage of the treatment or impose higher premiums on consumers,” Brown said, adding that “state Medicaid programs — which are already struggling to make ends meet — will be forced to deal with the financial repercussions” of the “exorbitant” hike. “This isn’t in the interest of children, new mothers, or taxpayers,” Brown told ThinkProgress.The FDA might also reconsider its granting of an exclusive license to KV.

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