Cost spike of doxycycline has created sticker shock for pet owners

Human drugs are often used for treating animals, but large animals like horses may take much greater doses. So if drug shortages shoot up their price, then the cost spike gets multiplied many times over. If a drug is needed for a companion animal, there usually is no insurance to ease the price pain. That is what happened with the antibiotic doxycycline, used to treat Lyme disease in both animals and humans.

The price of the antibiotic grew more than any other generic last year after several drugmakers had to cut production. The cost of the 100-mg dose went up 6,351% for the 12 months ended in November, according to Drug Channel Institute, a website that monitors the economics of the pharma business, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports. The price of the 50-mg capsules was up 2,138%. Prices have eased some since, but they still remain very expensive, the newspaper reports.

The Rhinebeck Equine veterinary practice tells the newspaper that a bottle of doxycycline to treat Lyme disease that went for $36 in 2012 is now running $400 or more, and a horse may require half a dozen bottles for a 30-day treatment. "It's not an option" for most horse owners, Dr. Amy Grice, a vet at the facility, told the newspaper. Sometimes there are cheaper alternatives. Grice says she now prescribes the less expensive minocycline but says it is not cheap.

Some animal owners whose pets need treatment have turned to compounding pharmacies, but the deaths of some horses at a facility in Kentucky after taking compounded drugs have raised concerns about that option.

Of course the flip side of the formula is that for drugmakers with a ready supply during a shortage, there is big demand and so great profits. Jordan-based drugmaker Hikma raised guidance four times last year, as it benefited from increased sales and pricing from the doxycycline shortage. Sales of the crucial antibiotic pushed Hikma's generics sales to about $270 million for 2013, $10 million more than it projected in November.

But in February it told investors that particular play was about played out. In October, the FDA said the drug, which is used for treating a host of conditions like malaria and sexually transmitted diseases as well as Lyme disease, was off the shortage list. That led Hikma to warn that it expected sales of generic drugs to decline this year.

- read the Poughkeepsie Journal story