Doxycycline price hikes make antibiotic too expensive for pets and vets

A shortage of the antibiotic doxycycline powered huge price increases, in turn providing a huge boon for drugmakers like Jordan-based drugmaker Hikma, which rode that wave to big revenue increases. But even though the FDA declared the shortage of the drug over last year, prices remain high, keeping the first-line treatment for Lyme disease out of reach for one particular market segment: pets and vets.

When several drugmakers had to cut production, the price of doxycycline started rising, spiking higher last year than any other generic, according to Drug Channel Institute, a website that monitors the economics of the pharma business, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports. The site says the price of the 100-mg dose went up 6,351% for the 12 months ended in November. 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.

And that is particularly so for the uninsured. The Rhinebeck Equine veterinary practice tells the newspaper that a bottle of doxycycline to treat Lyme disease went for $36 in 2012. That same bottle now can run $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. She 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.

Pet owners' pain has been Hikma's gain. The company 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