I’m extremely upset about the news I read today about how there is going to be a tremendous spike in cost for the treatment of premature labor. A drug that many women depend on to help carry pregnancies to term may go up in price from $10 to $1,500 per dose.
Let’s clear up a couple things first. Preterm labor rates in the United States have not changed in last 15 years. If anything, there are areas in this country where the preterm labor rate has actually increased.
The cause of preterm labor is still not fully understood. We know there are risk factors such as infections, multi-fetal gestations such as twins and triplets, anatomical abnormalities of the uterus and cervix, smoking, and chronic medical diseases like diabetes and hypertension, all of which have contributed to the rates of preterm delivery.
So this means, even to this day, the treatment of premature delivery is multi-disciplinary. There is not a single drug or treatment in existence that is the silver bullet to eradicate preterm delivery.
The specific medication in question, progesterone injections, has been utilized for years as an adjunct to the treatment of premature labor. It is given as a weekly shot and can be used for up to 20 weeks during pregnancy.
And yes, it has appeared to make a dent in the premature delivery rates, and that is why so many doctors in obstetrical centers recommend it to their patients.
Previously, the progesterone injections were made in special pharmacies that custom-compound treatments that are not federally approved. There were concerns about the quality of unregulated drugs, and as a result, the FDA has given exclusive manufacturing to St. Louis company KV Pharmaceutical, who will market the drug as Makena.
But for the government to give the exclusive rights of the drug to a single company who now wants to significantly profit from the manufacturing of this drug is quite alarming, inappropriate and immoral.
I know that one of the rationales that KV Pharmaceutical is giving for the price hike is that the cost of care for a premature baby is estimated to be, on average, $51,000 in the first year alone.
However, this drug is not expensive to manufacturers, as proven by the independent pharmacy services who have been providing this drug for as little as $10 per injection.
So let’s get a grip on reality: if the federal government wants to increase the cost of obstetrical care, they certainly have found a new way to do it. But I would argue if the federal government wants to spend money, I would rather them do it by providing funds for new research on how to treat preterm labor.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.