In 2014, global pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt acquired Questcor Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Synacthen Depot—a drug critical to the treatment of seizures in infants. It is used to treat a rare form of epilepsy:
The price of drug prescribed to infants in Canada with a rare and potentially dangerous form of epilepsy has jumped by 2,000 per cent practically overnight, upsetting specialists and parents.
Infantile spasms, also called West syndrome, is a catastrophic and rare form of epilepsy. It's diagnosed in babies with seizures that show abnormal bursts in the brain's electrical activity on an electroencephalogram or EEG.
The price went from $35 per vial to $801 per vial, raising the six-week treatment price from $750 to $17,000. Like Turning Pharmaceuticals and the price hike on Daraprim, Mallinkrodt justified the skyrocketing price as such:
"When Mallinckrodt acquired Questcor in 2014, Synacthen Depot was one of the products in the portfolio. It was losing money then and still is. Moreover, in the spring of 2014, Mallinckrodt was told by the existing supplier of the product that they would cease production in early 2016," a Mallinckrodt spokesman said in an email to CBC News.
Canadian pediatric neurologist Dr. Carter Snead isn’t buying it:
“They (Questcor) have done absolutely nothing to justify this huge price increase,” Snead says. “There has been no investment in research (and) no investment in drug development. This is completely ugly pricing behaviour.”
Snead thinks pharmaceutical companies are just getting started:
“My concern is that this is a harbinger of things that will come in the near future,” Snead says. “This is predatory behaviour on the part of drug companies – period.
“This won’t be the last time this happens. Canada, the United States and Europe need to put some kind of system in place so manufacturers of drugs … have to follow strict regulations following price increases, and the increases cannot exceed the consumer price index.”
Let’s hope our leaders take the good doctor’s advice and start putting regulations in place before these types of drugs become out of reach for those who need them the most.