price-gouging by big pharma

A new pharmaceutical company, with an office in Alabama but no production facilities, has simplified things by charging the same price ($295) for two products (Niacor and SSKI), which previously sold for $32.46 (100 tablets) and $11.48 (30ml) respectively.

Avondale Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Niacor, a prescription-only version of niacin, by 809 per cent last month, taking a bottle of 100 tablets from $32.46 to $295, according to figures seen by the Financial Times.

Although niacin, a type of vitamin B3, is available in over-the-counter forms for less than $5 per 100 tablets, some doctors still prefer to use the version approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat high cholesterol. ….

Avondale … appears to have been set up for the sole purpose of acquiring two products from Upsher Smith.

In addition to Niacor, it bought a second of Upsher’s drugs, a respiratory medicine [potassium iodide] known as SSKI. The company makes no other medicines, according to FDA records.

Avondale increased the price of SSKI by 2,469 per cent, taking a 30ml bottle from $11.48 to $295 ….

Almost 19,000 prescriptions were written for Niacor in the US last year …. It is the only prescription version that is absorbed by the body quickly ….

Most doctors will be unaware that the price of Niacor has risen so sharply because price increases are not routinely made public or telegraphed to the medical profession. ….

UnitedHealth, the largest health insurer, and Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager, said they included the medicine on the list of drugs they will pay for.

David Crow, “US drugmaker raises price of vitamins by more than 800%“, Financial Times, 11 December 2017 (gated paywall).

It is possible that the price increases affect only sales in the USA. I was unable to find any information online regarding prescriptions for Niacor or SSKI in Canada.

 

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