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Shedding Light in the Darkness

More Drug Company Greed

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A drug used to treat lead poisoning is causing a toxic reaction among hospitals and poison control centers after Valeant Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price more than 2,700 percent in a single year.

Before Valeant took control, the list price for a package of vials of Calcium EDTA had been stable at $950. But in January 2014, Valeant boosted the price to $7,116. By December 2014, several more increases took the price to $26,927, according to Truven Health Analytics. A Valeant spokesman maintained the current pricing is justified.

“This is a drug that has long been a standard of care, and until recently it was widely accessible at an affordable price,” said Dr. Michael Kosnett, an associate clinical professor in the division of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine.   “There’s no justification for the astronomical price increases by Valeant, which limit availability of the drug to children with life-threatening lead poisoning.”

For nearly two years, Valeant has been a poster child for pharmaceutical greed. Before a series of congressional hearings and an accounting scandal altered its playbook, the drug maker regularly bought companies and then boosted prices on some medicines to new heights.

“Lead poisoning is often an inner city problem and many hospitals don’t have a lot of resources in those areas,” said Dr. Lewis Nelson, who chairs the department of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Hospital pharmacy budgets are not unlimited, and this is the kind of drug nobody wants to keep around because there isn’t a lot of use. So this can create a dilemma.”

In the UK the National Health Service pays £7.28 for one vial, or £36.40 for 5.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows that about 350 schools and day-care centers failed lead tests a total of about 470 times from 2012 through 2015.

 

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