A$$inine Pricing of Indomethacin Suppositories

K McKee et al. Gastroenterol 2022; 163: 543-546. Open access! Rectal Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs for Post-Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography Pancreatitis Prophylaxis: A Case Study in a Price-Escalation Era

During the pandemic, several of the pharmaceutical companies have helped improve the reputation of the industry by expeditiously developing life-saving therapies and vaccines. At the same time, many have continued with outrageous price increases of generic medications. An example of this is rectal indomethacin which is used for the prevention of pancreatitis after ERCP. In this commentary, the key points:

  • The current price in the U.S. for this previously inexpensive medication is now $429 (in 2021) (previously $17). For patients, this charge is often multiplied by hospital billing departments and is frequently NOT covered by insurance as the manufacturer has not filed a new drug application with the FDA (new indication).
  • The authors note that rectal diclofenac would be a suitable alternative with similar (?better) effectiveness but is currently not available in U.S.
  • The government could allow importation of either diclofenac or indomethacin (see Table below for costs of these medications in other countries). “If the government used the powers granted in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the price gouging problem caused by rectal NSAIDs could be swiftly solved without the need for expanding the US manufacturing market.” This would drop the “price of this potentially lifesaving prophylaxis by 99.24%.”

My take: I am still grateful to Mark Cuban (Why I No Longer Need to Be A Billionaire | gutsandgrowth) who is much more likely to fix the generic drug pricing problem than our government which has been reluctant to take measures against big pharma.

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