The Vitamin Kid

Avoiding bad medicine and finding non-toxic treatments that actually work

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Location: Ankeny, Iowa, United States

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Costly eye drug challenged by cheap alternative

"Wet" macular degeneration is a serious eye disease that can lead to loss of a great deal of vision. New treatments may be able to halt the vision loss and in some cases even improve vision.

NPR offered a news item this week about Lucentis, an FDA-approved treatment for "wet" macular degeneration that is being overshadowed by a drug that is chemically almost the same, and has the same effect (it prevents the proliferation of new blood vessels).

The second drug, Avastin, is not FDA-approved for this particular use, but it may cost as little as $50 for treatment, compared to $2000 for the first drug. Doctors often prescribe drugs for things other than their FDA-approved purpose. It is called an "off-label" use.

You can listen to the story here:

The representative for the expensive drug is questioned about the pricing. He cites the cost of other drugs to treat wet macular degeneration, claims his drug is superior, and thinks $1950 per dose (with possibly multiple doses needed) is a cost the patient can afford, since most insurance companies will cover most of the cost. Additionally, the drug company, Genentec, set up a foundation to help poor patients with the exhorbitant price. The subtext of all this is that the drug company picks the highest price they think they can get away with.

In the NPR story, we listen in on a doctor consulting with a patient. Even when the more expensive option is covered by insurance, the patient chooses the cheaper alternative, because she would have to pay first, and be reimbursed by insurance later. She doesn't want to part with her 2 grand. Smart lady! "Clearly, Avastin is a better value," the doctor says.

Ya think so?


Blogger boris said...

this should enter some kind of online database of cost effective drugs

8:23 AM  

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