When it comes to saving a baby's life, price is no object. Ovation Pharmaceuticals banked on that --literally.
The Federal Trade Commission has sued the drug maker for alleged price-gouging after Ovation cornered the market on two life-saving drugs for premature babies -- and then inflated the price by 1,300 percent.
In what the FTC calls "monopoly prices" and "unlawfully obtained profits," the drug called Indocin was jacked up in price from $36 to $500 per vial. How do you spell G-R-E-E-D?
The drug is for preemies with life-threatening heart defects. It repairs a heart blood vessel defect that occurs in some preterm-infants that can lead to congestive heart failure. For decades Indocin had been the treatment of choice for some 30,000 preemies born annually with this potentially fatal heart problem. Ovation's drugs are the only alternative to risky surgery for "patent ductus arteriosus" in which a blood vessel connecting two heart arteries fails to close," reports efluxmedia.com .
"Just when I thought I could not take any more outrageous greed!" said Dr.Toni Brayer in her blog Everything Health, voicing what so many feel today. "This type of price gouging and greed needs to be halted in its tracks. I can't imagine what defense Ovation will propose. It looks pretty clear that they purchased their only competitor and blackmailed the medical community into paying the price."
The FTC suit was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, following complaints raised by Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
In an unusual move, the FTC is asking the court to force Ovation Pharmaceuticals to forfeit its "unlawfully obtained profits."
"Ovation's profiteering on the backs of critically ill premature babies is not only immoral, it is illegal," said Jon Leibowitz, FTC commissioner, reported by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.
As related in the FTC complaint, Ovation acquired the drug Indocin from Merck in 2005. At that time, a competing drug called NeoProfen was ready to enter the market. Ovation bought the rights to that drug (the only other drug used to treat this condition) in January 2006 and immediately increased the price of Indocin by 1,300 percent. When the drug maker launched NeoProfen in July 2006, it charged a similar price.
UNETHICAL, IMMORAL AND ILLEGAL
Ovation has recently purchased three other children's drugs and raised their prices by 864 percent to 3,437 percent, University of Minnesota Prof. Stephen Schondelmeyer told the Star Tribune.
"To achieve its dominant position, Ovation monopolized the market and bought its most imminent threat," said FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz.
Ovation is a pharma to keep a close eye on.
Here's what it's up to now: Ovation is getting ready to launch Xenazine (tetrabenazine) a treatment for chorea associated with Huntington's Disease (HD). Xenazine is the first and only FDA-approved treatment specifically developed for any HD-related symptom.
Additionally, an FDA advisory committee recently voted unanimously to recommend Ovation's Sabril (vigabatrin) for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy. If approved, Sabril will be the first FDA-approved monotherapy for infantile spasms.
Let's see how much Ovation will charge for these drugs for which it has "first and only FDA-approvals."
ETHIC SOUP'S NEW WORD -- "GREEDANCE"
It amazes me how pharmaceutical companies (along with doctors and research universities to which the pharma companies provide huge pay-offs) continue to be greedy, unethical and immoral even at a time when they are being carefully scrutinized due to their past behaviors. It has to be arrogance, not even thinly-veiled.
What do you call greed combined with arrogance? What about "greedance?" It rhymes with grievance.
Can preemies hold a grudge?