HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Drug Company Supplements Cost of Drug with Charity Program

The drug company NitroMed has come up with a complex pricing system for their new federally approved heart-failure drug BiDil, specifically intended for African-Americans.  The N.Y. Times reports that the price of each pill is $1.80, twice as much as some other heart-failure treatments.  This would make the cost of taking pill between $5.40 and $10.80 a day, as most patients will be taking it 2 to 3 times a day.  Approval of the drug came after a research study showed that it reduced mortality by 43 percent over 18 months. 

The company has established a generous charity program to supplement the drug's price in an effort to make the drug more affordable to the 75,000 target patients who have no prescription drug insurance coverage.  Under this program, any patient without prescription drug coverage will be able to get the pill for $25 a month; poor patients without prescription drug coverage will get it for free.   

Dr. Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who led the FDA advisory panel that approved the drug remarked that he was "[disappointed] in the decision to price BiDil beyond the financial means of many patients who might benefit."   Others have said the charity program is just a way to stem criticism for setting the price so high.  On the other hand, David Moskowitz, a financial analysis, compares the system to some welfare models where some people are taxed and others benefit.  He says that "one can look at it as pricing where the company will be subsidizing its patient assistance program with some of the dollars from private insurers and government programs." 

Thanks to Lindley Bain for her assistance with this post.  [tm]

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